Family Structure and Income during Childhood and Subsequent Prosocial Behavior in Young Adulthood

Mark Wilhelm, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

This paper (i) examines a substantive question rarely addressed by the literature on associations between family structure / income in childhood and subsequent outcomes, and (ii) offers a new method to construct empirical specifications of those associations. Substantively, we estimate models of young adults’ prosocial behavior (charitable giving, volunteering, and the emphasis young adults place on teaching their children to help others) as a function of family structure / income during stages of childhood. The models are estimated using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. The new method requires the researcher to clearly specify a set of restrictions on the underlying child development process. We show that such restrictions have been implicitly and unknowingly imposed by the specifications used in past research and that past restrictions have not always been sensible. We then propose several sets of a priori sensible restrictions and use Bayesian model selection to choose among them.

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