Migration and Human Capital Formation: The Impact of Family Disruption and Moving on Child Development

- | McNeil Building 414 (Urban Studies Conference Room)
Lucienne Disch

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Speaker: Lucienne Disch, Economics

Discussant: Dr. Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Sociology

Abstract: This paper studies the consequences of family disruption and moving for human capital formation. I capitalize on features of standardized test scores, surveys, and geocoded microdata. The exogeneity of parental separation for the child allows me to exploit quasi- random variation induced by changes in household composition due to initial presence and subsequent absence of the father. I document that family disruption leads to lower test scores for children and highlight a common occurrence in the context of family disruption, which is residential relocation. I show that moving to a new place of residence in connection with family disruption can be disadvantageous for the child in terms of school performance, since the phenomenon of moving contributes to the test score gap, rather than family disruption per se. I provide evidence that, especially when moving beyond a mile away from the original place of residence, children are more adversely affected. Accordingly, a potential mechanism behind the gap in test scores between the studied stable two-parent households and those experiencing family disruption could be peer disruption. Disruption events are unequally prevalent across different racial groups and thus, potentially contributing to the overall test scores gap by race, and inequality. Targeted policies can help prevent the adverse effects of moving (far) away in the context of family disruption by allowing new single mothers and their children to stay for at least three years in their familiar residential area after separation. 

Please contact Tessa Huttenlocher (thutten@sas.upenn.edu) with any questions.

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