Parental Separation and Children’s High-School Performance: Further Evidence and Heterogeneity from Italy

Manuela Stranges , Università della Calabria
Luca Maria Pesando, McGill University

This paper addresses the long-standing question of whether parental separation shapes children’s educational outcomes. We provide three contributions. First, we shed additional light on this relationship drawing on retrospective data from university students in Italy, a country that has historically had very low separation rates but has experienced an important rise in family dissolution over the past two decades. Second, we obtain province-level data on demographic indicators related to union formation to assess whether the relationship is robust to the use of instrumental variables or it is simply due to selection. Third, we use these same province-level indicators to conduct heterogeneity analyses aimed at exploring whether parental separation is more or less harmful in provinces where divorce is more widespread or more commonly accepted. Preliminary results suggest that students whose parents separated before high-school completion scored on average 1-to-2 points less on the end-of-high-school exam relative to students whose parents did not separate or separated after high-school completion.

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 Presented in Session 40. Partner Formation, Union Dissolution and Consequences