The Effects of the Timing of Divorce on Children

Forskningsenhed: EPRU

33% of all Danish children have experienced a parental divorce (or end of cohabitation) by age15 (Ottesen and Stage, 2012). In the cross-section, these children have worse outcomes than children of parents who do not get divorced. In Denmark, children whose parents’ divorced by age 15 are on average in the 45th percentile of labor earnings at age 30, while children whose parents are not divorced are in the 52nd percentile of labor earnings. However, the extent to which differences between children of divorce and not divorce is due to causal effect rather than just selection is highly debated (Amato 2010, Bjorklund et al. 2006, Bjorklund Sundstrom 2006, Corak 2001, Gruber 2004, MacLanahan et al. 2013, Sigle-Rushto et al. 2014). Furthermore, the exact mechanisms of a causal effect have yet to be identified, though theory offers up many possibilities. In particular, divorce may lead to an increased absence of one’s father, leading to fewer parental inputs. Divorce may also be surrounded by parental conflict which may cause the child mental distress leading to lower human capital. There may also be other changes resulting from the divorce, for example, moves, that lead to disruptions in children lives, which may also effect their social as well as general human capital (Coleman 1996). Some of these mechanisms might cause a fixed cost on the child independent of the timing, while others might have a cost that is dependent on the timing of the divorce.

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