Household Structure and School Attendance in 67 Countries: Why Children with Absent Fathers Do Better in Some Places

Laurie DeRose, University of Maryland
Paul Corcuera Garcia, Universidad de Piura
Andres Salazar, Universidad de La Sabana
Claudia Tarud, Universidad de Los Andes

In contrast to richer countries where children living with both biological parents have numerous educational advantages, children in poorer countries living with only one biological parent may do as well or better. We use Demographic and Health Survey data from 67 countries to assess how living arrangements affect school attendance in poorer settings. We document an advantage to children living with only one biological parent in many countries, but this is mostly due to married fathers being absent from the household. Children living with stepfathers were disadvantaged in more countries than were children of single mothers, and they were not advantaged anywhere. Some evidence that children of single mothers are more likely to attend school remained for West Africa. Variation in rates of widowhood did not explain variation in effects of family structure. We found modest evidence that negative effects of father absence are buffered by extended family.

  See paper

Presented in Session 224: Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Child Well-Being