Breaking Up the Empty Nest: Implications for Grown Children

Julie Kraut-Becher, University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College
David C. Ribar, George Washington University

This study uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine differences in socioeconomic outcomes between young adults whose parents dissolve their marriages during the children’s transition to adulthood and young adults with other family backgrounds. The study is motivated by previous research that has examined the consequences of marital disruptions that occur when children are younger and by evidence of the increasing importance of parental assistance in children’s transitions into adulthood. Research has not carefully considered whether "empty nest" marital disruptions confer disadvantages beyond the home. We hypothesize such disruptions might hinder parents’ ability to provide time, financial or co-residence assistance to their adult children. To address concerns regarding endogeneity in the multivariate analyses, we estimate models of family structure jointly with models of the children’s subsequent socioeconomic attainments. Our empirical analyses reveal that parents’ living arrangements are associated with children’s subsequent family incomes, earnings and marriage behavior.

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Presented in Session 10: Family Instability and Child Well-Being