Date of Award

December 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Member

Curtis Simon

Committee Member

Scott Templeton

Committee Member

Scott Barkowski

Committee Member

Devon Gorry


The children who grew up in a two-parent household earn more than the other children reared in non-intact parental families. The causal effects of growing up in a two-parent household can be identified using two specification strategies. First, I include the parental household income and educational attainment in the model, along with the child’s demographic characteristics (age, gender, race, and state of residence), to disentangle the childhood family structure effect from the other parental influence. Second, I use the average state divorce rate over the child’s first 16 years of childhood and the childhood years of exposure to the no-fault divorce law as instrumental variables (IVs) for the endogenous childhood family structure and employ the two-stage least squares (2SLS) approach to alleviate the omitted variable bias. Growing up in a two-parent household increases the child’s years of schooling by half a year. The children who grew up in a two-parent household earn at least fifteen percent more in adulthood than those from non-intact families after holding relevant parental and child factors constant and correcting the omitted variable bias. An intact parental family also raises adult children’s labor force participation probability. The effects are more significant for households where parents are wealthier or better-educated. The findings are consistent with the parental utility maximization model’s predictions. The child’s educational attainment is the primary mechanism that links childhood family structure to the adult child’s earnings.



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