New Fathers' Labor Supply: Does Child Health Matter?


  • *Direct correspondence to Kelly Noonan, Rider University, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 〈〉. This research was supported by Grant KN03-NPC02 from the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan and Grants R01-HD-45630 and R01-HD-35301 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We are grateful for helpful input from Irwin Garfinkel, William Greene, Michael Grossman, Jennifer Marogi, Sara McLanahan, Lenna Nepomnyaschy, and Ofira Schwartz-Soicher.


Objective. We estimate the effect of poor child health on the labor supply of fathers post-welfare reform, using a national sample of mostly unwed parents and their children—a group at high risk of living in poverty.

Method. We control for a rich set of covariates, include state fixed effects, and test for the endogeneity of child health by estimating bivariate probit models.

Results. We find that having a young child in poor health reduces the father's probability of being employed by four percentage points. The effect appears to be strongest among fathers who cohabit with, but are not married to, the child's mother.

Conclusion. The results suggest a potential source by which young children with serious health problems may receive lower levels of health investment than their healthier peers—their fathers' reduced likelihood of being employed.