Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden

25 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2004

See all articles by Anders Bjorklund

Anders Bjorklund

Stockholm University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Donna K. Ginther

University of Kansas - Department of Economics

Marianne Sundstrom

Stockholm University - Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)

Date Written: August 2004

Abstract

It is well known that children reared in non-intact families on average have less favorable educational outcomes than children reared in two-parent families. Evidence from the United States and Sweden indicates that living in a non-intact family is correlated with lower educational attainment. In this paper we compare the relationships between family structure and children's outcomes in terms of educational attainment and earnings using data from Sweden and the United States. Comparing the United States and Sweden is interesting because both family structure and public policy environments in the two countries differ significantly. Family structure could potentially have a less negative effect in Sweden than in the United States because of the extensive social safety net provided by that country. We find, however, the associations between family structure and children's outcomes to be remarkably similar in the United States and Sweden even though the policy and social environments differ between the two countries; living in a non-intact family is negatively related to child outcomes. This relationship is weakened when we control for other family characteristics, such as time lived with full and half siblings. In addition, when we use sibling-difference models to take account of unobserved family characteristics, the relationship is no longer statistically significant. Taken together, our results suggest that the true effect of family structure is more complex than the biological relationship of parents to children in both Sweden and the United States.

Keywords: family structure, parental separation, child welfare, educational attainment

JEL Classification: J1, J12, I21

Suggested Citation

Bjorklund, Anders and Ginther, Donna K. and Sundstrom, Marianne, Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden (August 2004). IZA Discussion Paper No. 1259. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=579823

Anders Bjorklund (Contact Author)

Stockholm University ( email )

Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)
S-106 91 Stockholm
Sweden
+46 8 163452 (Phone)
+46 8 154670 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Donna K. Ginther

University of Kansas - Department of Economics ( email )

1300 Sunnyside Drive
Lawrence, KS 66045-7585
United States

Marianne Sundstrom

Stockholm University - Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) ( email )

SE-106 91 Stockholm
Sweden
08-16 31 36 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sofi.su.se/~msu

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