Full House

Kevin Lewis

February 23, 2020

Birth order and unwanted fertility
Wanchuan Lin, Juan Pantano & Shuqiao Sun
Journal of Population Economics, April 2020, Pages 413-440


An extensive literature documents the effects of birth order on various individual outcomes, with later-born children faring worse than their siblings. However, the potential mechanisms behind these effects remain poorly understood. This paper leverages US data on pregnancy intention to study the role of unwanted fertility in the observed birth order patterns. We document that children higher in the birth order are much more likely to be unwanted, in the sense that they were conceived at a time when the family was not planning to have additional children. Being an unwanted child is associated with negative life cycle outcomes as it implies a disruption in parental plans for optimal human capital investment. We show that the increasing prevalence of unwantedness across birth order explains a substantial part of the documented birth order effects in education and employment. Consistent with this mechanism, we document no birth order effects in families who have more control over their own fertility.

Economic Incentives Surrounding Fertility: Evidence from Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend
Nishant Yonzan, Laxman Timilsina & Inas Rashad Kelly
NBER Working Paper, January 2020


Starting in 1982, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend allows each full-time resident in Alaska, including infants born in the qualifying year, to receive a sizable dividend. This dividend, which represents a form of a Universal Basic Income on a small scale, could alter incentives surrounding fertility. Using synthetic control and difference-in-differences models to account for confounding factors and unobserved heterogeneity, we model the effect of income on fertility by exploiting this income shock around 1982 using Natality files from Vital Statistics and abortion data from the Centers for Disease Control, merged with data from the Census on various state characteristics. Primary results suggest that the dividend increased fertility and reduced the spacing between births, particularly for females in the 20-44 year age group. Our results suggest that policies aimed at increasing income should consider fertility consequences and their implications for economic growth.

The Effect of Birth Weight on Child Development Prior to School Entry
Caitlin Hines, Christina Padilla & Rebecca Ryan
Child Development, forthcoming


The present study examines variation in the effect of birth weight on children’s early cognitive and socioemotional outcomes by family socioeconomic status (SES). It is hypothesized that not only will lower birth weight children display worse cognitive and socioemotional outcomes prior to school entry, as prior research has found, but that effects will be stronger for lower‐SES children. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, the study compares the age 4 outcomes of twins discordant for birth weight (N ~ 1,400). Twin fixed‐effects models are run on the full twin sample and separately for low‐ and high‐SES children. Results support the study’s hypotheses, suggesting that socioeconomic risk accentuates the effects of birth weight on early development.

Mutual Influence? Gender, Partner Pregnancy Desires, Fertility Intentions, and Birth Outcomes in U.S. Heterosexual Couples
Colleen Ray et al.
Journal of Family Issues, forthcoming


Competing hypotheses exist with regard to how men’s and women’s pregnancy desires and intentions are associated with births among contemporary heterosexual couples. There are compelling cultural and structural reasons to support either the hypothesis that men’s desires and intentions (patriarchal) or that women’s desires and intentions (matriarchal) will have more influence, or that both partner’s desires and intentions will be associated with births (mutual influence). In addition, patterns of change are likely to differ for couples that have children at wave 1 compared to those who do not. Path analyses of the of heterosexual couples (n = 615) who completed both waves of the National Survey of Fertility Barriers support the matriarchal hypothesis, because among couples without children, only women’s desires were associated with subsequent births. Among couples with children, men’s characteristics and desires are indirectly, and women’s are directly, associated with subsequent births, indicating support for the mutual influence hypothesis.

Grandparenting and Mortality: How Does Race-Ethnicity Matter?
Seung-won Emily Choi
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, forthcoming


Little is known about whether and how intergenerational relationships influence older adult mortality. This study examines the association between caring for grandchildren (i.e., grandparenting) and mortality and how the link differs by race-ethnicity. Drawing from the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2014, N = 13,705), I found different racial-ethnic patterns in the effects of grandparenting on mortality risk. White grandparents who provide intensive noncoresident grandparenting (i.e., over 500 hours of babysitting per two years) and multigenerational household grandparenting have a lower risk of mortality compared to noncaregiving grandparents. In contrast, black grandparents have a higher mortality risk than their noncaregiving counterparts when providing intensive noncoresident, multigenerational household, and skipped-generation household (i.e., grandparent-headed family) grandparenting. Caregiving Hispanic grandparents are not significantly different from their noncaregiving counterparts in mortality risk. These findings suggest that important variations in social and cultural contexts for racial-ethnic groups shape the consequences of grandparenting for older adult mortality.

Growth trajectories of parental emotion socialization and child adjustment following a military parenting intervention: A randomized controlled trial
Na Zhang et al.
Developmental Psychology, March 2020, Pages 652-663


Children of combat deployed parents are at risk of behavioral problems. Parental emotion socialization (PES) has been theorized to influence children’s behaviors; many studies lend support to this theory. However, longitudinal studies examining PES with experimental designs are sparse. In this study, we estimated PES growth trajectories following a parenting intervention and evaluated whether intervention induced improvements in PES predict child outcomes in postdeployed military families. National Guard/Reserve families with at least one deployed parent and a child aged 4-13 years were randomized into an intervention or control group. Data from all 255 2-parent married families, who were primarily Caucasian and middle-class, were analyzed. PES was indicated by self-reported nonsupportive and supportive reactions to children’s negative emotions (baseline, 1-year, and 2-year follow-up). Child behaviors were assessed through averaged mother- and father- reports (baseline and 2-year follow-up). Results of latent growth models showed that mothers and fathers assigned to the intervention condition reported greater improvements in nonsupportive PES (steeper negative slopes) over 2 years relative to controls. Both mothers’ and fathers’ intervention-induced improvements in nonsupportive PES were associated with decreased child internalizing behaviors. Mothers’ intervention-induced improvements in nonsupportive PES were associated with decreased child externalizing behaviors. No significant findings were detected for intervention effects on supportive PES growth trajectories. Our findings supported the indirect effects of the intervention on child behaviors through nonsupportive PES over two years. PES is an important, malleable skill that can be targeted in parenting interventions for postdeployed military families.

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