New Estimates on the Effect of Parental Separation on Child Health

Shirley H. Liu, University of Miami
Frank Heiland, Florida State University

This study examines the causal link between parental separation and the health status of young children. Using a representative sample of children all born out-of-wedlock drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we investigate whether separation between unmarried biological parents has a causal effect on a child's likelihood of developing asthma by age three. Adopting a treatment outcome framework to account for self-selection of relationship dissolution, we find that children whose parents separate within three years after childbirth are seven percent more likely to develop asthma by age three, relative to children whose parents remained romantically involved. We show that socioeconomically disadvantaged fathers are more likely to end their relationship with the child’s mother within three years after childbirth. If these fathers had maintained romantic involvement with the child’s mother, their child would be more likely to develop asthma by age three.

  See paper

Presented in Session 40: Union Dissolution