The Long-Term Outcomes of Divorce

It’s no secret among social scientists that, on average, family breakdown (notably divorce) is associated with multiple negative outcomes for children. But is divorce the causal factor? Recent evidence suggests that it is. Drawing on research that finds “that individuals who have workplaces with a larger fraction of co-workers of the opposite sex are significantly more likely to divorce later,” the authors

Image result for divorceaim to identify the causal effect of divorce for the child whose father left the family because he met a new partner at work. We argue that this research design evaluates a realistic divorce scenario and offers a well-balanced relationship between internal and external validity.

To assess the long-run effect of divorce, we analyse children’s human capital and demographic outcomes. First, we examine college attendance. In Austria, college attendance implies that this person graduated from a higher secondary school. Second, we check the labour market status (employed; unemployed; out-of-labour force) up to the age of 25 years. Third, we examine children’s own family formation behaviour (i.e. fertility and marriage). Finally, we investigate the probability of early mortality (below 25 years of age). Our results show that parental divorce – due to a high level of sexual integration in fathers’ workplaces — has a negative effect on children’s long-term outcomes.

These negative effects include:

  • Lower levels of educational attainment for both sexes.
  • Higher likelihood of early mortality and worse labor market outcomes for boys.
  • Increased likelihood of teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births for girls.

The researchers conclude, “Our results also imply that the negative consequences of parental divorce on children’s long-term outcomes should ideally not only be internalised by parents, but also by policymakers who design policies affecting parents’ incentives to divorce, or programmes which support children from disrupted families.”

1 thought on “The Long-Term Outcomes of Divorce”

  1. The previous sentences give it clearly what should be expected:
    “This empirical finding is in line with the economic model of marriage and divorce (Becker et al. 1977), which stresses imperfect information at the time of marriage and the acquisition of new information while married as key determinants of divorce. In particular, new information regarding alternative outside options – that is, extramarital relationships – is decisive.”

    But then they make an assumption based on no data or research whatsoever:
    “Sexually-integrated workplaces reduce the cost of extramarital search and allow married individuals to meet alternative mates, which increases the likelihood of divorce.”

    It could be argued that more members of the opposite sex means more possible extramarital mates, but it could also be argued that current attitudes toward workplace relationships mean almost no extramarital mates. In either case, this variable has not been studied, just assumed.

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