Divorce and higher education

The social conservatives are turning out to be right about many things:

In this paper we evaluate the degree to which the adverse parental divorce effect on university education operates through deprivation of economic resources. Using one million siblings from Taiwan, we first find that parental divorce occurring at ages 13-18 led to a 10.6 percent decrease in the likelihood of university admission at age 18. We then use the same sample to estimate the effect of parental job loss occurring at the same ages, and use the job-loss effect as a benchmark to indicate the potential parental divorce effect due to family income loss. We find the job-loss effect very little. Combined, these results imply a minor role played by reduced income in driving the parental divorce effect on the child’s higher education outcome. Non-economic mechanisms, such as psychological and mental shocks, are more likely to dominate. Our further examinations show that boys and girls are equally susceptible, and younger teenagers are more vulnerable than the more mature ones, to parental divorce.

That is from a recent NBER Working Paper by Yen-Chien Chen, Elliott Fan, and Jin-Tan Liu.

Nonetheless, I suspect there is more to it than this.  I can’t speak to the circumstances of Taiwan, but on average I think of women as suffering the most from non-divorce, not men.  It is not sufficiently discussed how much the higher growth rates of earlier times might have been achieved at the expense of women, at least in the short run.  It might in some ways boost economic growth to, through discrimination, allocate more very smart women to the teaching of grade school, and to keep them in unhappy marriages, “for the sake of the children.”  And yet those outcomes are entirely unjust, and the contemporary world has decided it will not accept them.


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