Shelly Lundburg, University of California, Santa Barbara - Is There a Gender Gap in the Effects of Childhood Family Environment?  Evidence from Two Countries

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Title: Is There a Gender Gap in the Effects of Childhood Family Environment?  Evidence from Two Countries

Abstract: The educational attainment of young women now exceeds that of young men in most of the developed world, and women account for about 60% of new four-year college graduates in the United States.  Several studies have suggested that the increase in single-parent households may be contributing to the growing gender gap in education, as boys are more vulnerable to the negative effects of father absence and economic disadvantage than girls. Using data on recent cohorts of young men and women from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), I find evidence consistent with other studies that boys are relatively more likely to experience problems in school, including school suspensions, when their father is absent, but also that girls are relatively more likely to experience depression in adolescence, particularly in step-father families. By the time Add Health subjects are young adults, there is no evidence that father absence early in life is more strongly associated with lower rates of college graduation for men, compared to women, in either cross-sectional or family fixed-effect models.

In a related project with Anne Brenoe, We examine the differential effects of family disadvantage on the education and adult labor market outcomes of men and women using high-quality administrative data on the entire population of Denmark born between 1966 and 1995.  Our results are consistent with U.S. findings that boys benefit more from an advantageous family environment than do girls in terms of grade-school outcomes. However, we find a very different pattern of parental influence on adult outcomes. Gender gaps in educational attainment, employment, and earnings are increasing in maternal education, benefitting daughters. Paternal education decreases the gender gaps in educational attainment (favoring sons) and labor market outcomes (favoring daughters). Both studies indicate that differences in the behavior of school-aged boys and girls are poor proxies for differences in skills that drive longer-term outcomes.

Presenter: Shelly Lundburg, University of California, Santa Barbara

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