A paper published in the November 2013 online edition of Demography documents the first study of the causal effect of same-sex marriage laws on heterosexual marriage. Economist Mircea Trandifar studies the effect of the Netherlands’ same-sex marriage laws, specifically the 1998 law allowing “registered partnerships” for both same-sex and heterosexual couples and the 2001 legalization of same-sex marriage, on heterosexual marriages in the country. Using OECD data (1988-2005), and data from the Dutch labor force survey and official municipal records to conduct his estimates, Trandifar finds no evidence of a negative effect at the aggregate level but also finds that the effect varies across regions and ethnicities. He points out that region of residence and ethnicity are two potential indicators of religiosity and conservatism, and so interprets his results as suggestive evidence that the laws motivated more heterosexual marriages among more-conservative individuals, and fewer heterosexual marriage among more-liberal individuals.
In a study published in the August 2010 edition of the Journal of Happiness Studies, Luis Angeles investigates the association between having children at home and life satisfaction using data from the nationally representative British household panel survey (BHPS). Angeles’ findings run contrary to current perspectives in the literature, a difference he attributes to his accounting for individual characteristics, notably marital status. For the average person, Angeles finds that the relationship between the presence of children in the household and life satisfaction is small and possibly zero. But when he investigates the relationship specifically for the average married person and for people who are separated, living as a couple, or never-married singles, his findings are as follows: for the former, the relationship is positive and large; for the latter, negative and large (though not statistically significant). Angeles interprets his findings as suggestive that having children in the home makes people more satisfied if those persons are at such a time of their life in which they are ready or at least willing to be parents.
In a new NBER paper, (WP No. 19610), Olivetti, Patacchini and Zenou investigate the role model effect of other women’s work behavior on women’s gender identity formation. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, the researchers focus on the effect of mother’s work behavior as well as that of friends’ mothers, during a woman’s adolescence, on her adult labor force participation. This study offers two innovations to the economic literature on gender identity formation: first, the researchers’ usage of friends’ mothers’ work behavior as a measure in the utility function; second, the researcher’s instrument, namely, labor market opportunity measures in a girl’s residential area during her adolescence, that deals with the potential endogeneity of their innovative measure. The researchers interpret their findings as suggestive that both mother’s and friends mothers’ work behavior positively effect a woman’s work hours in adulthood. Furthermore, they interpret their findings as suggestive that the mother’s work behavior had more of an effect than the friend’s mothers’ behavior when the former worked more than the latter; that the effects on a woman’s work hours in adulthood are stronger when she herself becomes a mother; and that the mother’s role model effect is strongest for college educated women.
In a study published in the September 2013 online edition of Demography, researchers Kane, Morgan, Harris, and Guilkey propose an explanation of prior literature’s inconsistent estimates of the causal effect of teenage childbearing on educational outcomes, and find what they interpret to be a more reliable estimate. In prior literature, estimates of the effect range from no effect to a negative effect of 2.6 years. In this study, however, the researchers suggest that the inconsistency may be explained by the varied statistical approaches adopted to calculate the estimates. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the researchers re-estimate the effect of teenage childbearing on educational outcomes using four varied approaches, and their findings range from 0.7 to 1.9. They present the effect of 0.7 fewer years of schooling as their preferred estimate for reason of the relative strengths of the semiparametric maximum likelihood approach by which it is derived.
In a new NBER paper, (WP No. 19542), Hotz and Pantano find that children born earlier do better in school, and propose that this pattern may be explained in part by parental reputation dynamics. The researchers propose a reputation model of strategic parenting where parents work to establish a reputation of toughness by being stricter with older children when they engage in bad behavior to deter bad behavior among their younger children. However, differences in actual disciplinary treatment of older and younger children may be part of what drives the differences in educational outcomes. The researchers’ findings from data evidence on the children of female respondents in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979, are interpreted to be consistent with the model. For instance, they find that parents provide more regulation on TV watching and more intense monitoring on homework for their earlier born children. The researchers further test their model with an alternative new method in the attempt to deal with the absence of a good instrumental variable that would solve the problem of the endogenous measure of monitoring upon bad school performance. This test makes use of the data’s documentation of self-reported probabilities of monitoring, which are not subject to the endogeneity of the reports of actual monitoring. Again, the findings are interpreted to be consistent with the model. In particular, mothers self report that they are more likely to increase supervision of a child that brought home a worse than expected report card if that child was one of her earlier born children.
A study by Cardak and Vecci published in the Economics of Education Review (Volume 37, December 2013, in progress) investigates the Catholic school effect on high school completion and university commencement and completion. Using data on the 1998 cohort of the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth, the researchers follow the methodology introduced by Altonji et al (2005a) to deal with the absence of reliable instruments and account for selection bias. They estimate a range of the Catholic school effect, and interpret their upper-bound estimate as suggestive that the Catholic school effect at best may be positive but lower than that found by previous studies of Australian students. They interpret their lower bound estimate as suggestive that the Catholic school effect may be zero or even negative.
The researchers offer possible explanations for their findings: the fact that their data offers a wider set of variables that may reflect some unobservable effects which have appeared to be a Catholic school effect; changes in the differences between Australian Catholic and public schools, such as their amount of resources; and higher incentives for Australian students to stay in and complete school, due to changes in the labor market and government policy.
In a study published in the September 2013 online edition of Demography, Sociologists England, Wu and Shafer investigate explanations for specific cohort trends in premarital first births among women. Using nationally representative data from the June 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1995 Current Population Survey, the researchers compare the fertility and marriage trends of the pre-baby boom cohort (women most of whom came of age before 1970) and the baby boom cohort (women most of whom came of age between 1965-1984). For both cohorts, the researchers observed increases in premarital first births; however, whereas for the first cohort the researchers also observed increases in premarital conceptions, for the second cohort they found only a moderate increase in premarital conceptions taken to term. The researchers speculate that, for the first cohort, the pair of trends is attributable to an increase in premarital sexual activity, and that, for the second cohort, the pair of trends may be due to the diffusion of effective contraceptive methods.
To explain the increase in premarital births, the researchers interpret their findings as suggestive that the increase among women in the first cohort may be explained by increases in premarital conceptions, and that the increase among women in the second cohort may be explained by declines in marrying before a first birth as a response to a premarital conception. The researchers argue that this latter explanation for the “retreat from marriage” presents an explanation distinct from the oft-cited argument that less marriageable men have driven the later entrance into first marriage for women.