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WHAT DETERMINES FAMILY STRUCTURE?

Authors

  • DAVID M. BLAU,

    1. Blau: Department of Economics, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1172. Phone 614-292-2009, Fax 614-292-3906, E-mail blau.12@osu.edu
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  • WILBERT van der KLAAUW

    1. van der Klaauw: Microeconomic and Regional Studies Function, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York, NY 10045. Phone 212-720-5916, Fax 212-720-1844, E-mail wilbert.vanderklaauw@ny.frb.org
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    • Financial support from NICHD grant HD45587 is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks to Karin Gleiter for expert programming. We appreciate helpful comments and suggestions from Audrey Light, Bruce Weinberg, and seminar and conference participants at the 2007 Population Association of America meetings, Brown University, Yale University, Ohio State University, the University of Virginia, the University of Washington, UQAM, and the Brookings Institution. The authors alone are responsible for the contents. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.


Abstract

We use data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to estimate the effects of policy and labor market variables on the demographic behaviors that determine children's family structure experiences: union formation and dissolution, and fertility. Male and female wages have substantial effects on family structure for children of black and Hispanic mothers. The tax treatment of children also affects family structure. Welfare reform, welfare benefits, and unilateral divorce had much smaller effects on family structure for the children of this cohort of women. Trends in wages and tax rates explain only a small share of the observed changes in family structure in recent decades. (JEL J12)

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