Divorce and the cognitive achievement of children

Melissa Tartari, University of Pennsylvania


It is commonly thought that divorce adversely affects child outcomes. Children of divorced parents exhibit lower test scores and lower educational attainment. A fundamental question is whether these correlations have a causal interpretation. Parents who divorce may also be less likely to invest in their children while together. Alternatively, they may choose to divorce to shield their children from the effects of marital conflict. The goal of this dissertation is to understand what generates the observed differences in children's cognitive achievement by their parents' marital status. I study the relationship between marital status and a child's cognitive achievement within a dynamic framework in which partners decide on whether to remain married, how to interact (with or without conflict), fertility, labor supply, time spent with their children, and child support transfers. Using the estimated behavioral model, I assess whether a child whose parents divorced would have been better off had divorce not been an option. I also consider the effects of pro-marriage policies, such as a bonus paid to low income married couples. Finally, I evaluate how better enforcement of existing child support guidelines would affect a child's cognitive achievement, taking into account induced changes in within-marriage behavior.

Subject Area

Labor economics|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Tartari, Melissa, "Divorce and the cognitive achievement of children" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225552.