The kids are all right

Kevin Lewis

September 22, 2016

The increasing happiness of US parents

Chris Herbst & John Ifcher

Review of Economics of the Household, September 2016, Pages 529-551

Previous research suggests that parents may be less happy than non-parents. We critically assess the literature and examine parents’ and non-parents’ happiness-trends using the General Social Survey (N = 42,298) and DDB Lifestyle Survey (N = 75,237). We find that parents are becoming happier over time relative to non-parents, that non-parents’ happiness is declining absolutely, and that estimates of the parental happiness gap are sensitive to the time-period analyzed. These results are consistent across two datasets, most subgroups, and various specifications. Finally, we present evidence that suggests children appear to protect parents against social and economic forces that may be reducing happiness among non-parents.


Father Absence and Adolescent Depression and Delinquency: A Comparison of Siblings Approach

Anna Markowitz & Rebecca Ryan

Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2016, Pages 1300–1314

Although associations between having a nonresident father and increased internalizing and externalizing behaviors in adolescence have been well documented, research has yet to establish the plausible causality of these links or identify underlying mechanisms. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 - Young Adult survey, this study addresses these questions by comparing the depressive symptoms and delinquent behavior of siblings discordant for age at father departure. Findings indicate that father departure later in childhood is associated with increased adolescent delinquency but not depressive symptoms, whereas early childhood father departure was not associated with adolescent outcomes. Both findings suggests that parental monitoring — rather than socialization or emotional distress — may account for links between father departure and adolescent delinquency.


Shorter Work Hours and Work-to-Family Interference: Surprising Findings from 32 Countries

Leah Ruppanner & David Maume

Social Forces, forthcoming

For many, work interferes with their home life. To mitigate this encroachment, many welfare states have legislated shorter workweeks. Yet, the effectiveness of this policy on work-to-family interference is mixed, thus requiring additional investigation. We address this gap by applying multilevel data pairing the 2005 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) for individuals in 32 nations (N = 20,937) with country-level measures of legislated weekly work hours, mean reported weekly work hours (aggregated and differentiated by gender), and individualistic/collectivist orientations. We find that legislated work hours have no impact on individuals’ reports of work-to-family interference. By contrast, shorter normative weekly work hours, aggregated and by gender, are associated with greater individual work-to-family interference. We find an equivalent pattern in individualistic countries. While we document individual-level gender and parental differences, we find no differential effects of long workweeks for these groups. We explain these associations through the heightened expectations perspective, arguing that increased resources heighten expectations of work–life balance and sensitivity to work-to-family interference.


On the Production of Skills and the Birth-Order Effect

Ronni Pavan

Journal of Human Resources, August 2016, Pages 699-726

First-born children tend to outperform their younger siblings on measures such as cognitive exams, wages, educational attainment, and employment. Using a framework similar to Cunha and Heckman (2008) and Cunha, Heckman, and Schennach (2010), this paper finds that differences in parents’ investments across siblings can account for more than one-half of the gap in cognitive skills among siblings. The study’s framework accommodates for endogeneity in parents’ investments, measurement error, missing observations, and dynamic impacts of parental investments.


Locus of control and its intergenerational implications for early childhood skill formation

Warn Lekfuangfu et al.

Economic Journal, forthcoming

This paper builds upon Cunha's (2015) subjective rationality model in which parents have a subjective belief about the impact of their investment on their children's early skill formation. We propose that this subjective belief is determined partly by locus of control (LOC), i.e., the extent to which individuals believe that their actions can influence future outcomes. Consistent with the theory, we show that maternal LOC measured at the 12th week of gestation strongly predicts maternal attitudes towards parenting style and actual time investments. We also utilize maternal LOC to improve the specification typically used to estimate skill production function parameters.


Breastfeeding duration and offspring conduct problems: The moderating role of genetic risk

Dylan Jackson

Social Science & Medicine, October 2016, Pages 128–136

Methods: A genetically informative design is employed to examine a subsample of twins from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative sample of American children.

Results: The findings suggest that a shorter duration of breastfeeding only enhances the risk of offspring conduct problems among children who possess high levels of genetic risk. Conversely, longer breastfeeding durations were found to protect against childhood behavioral problems when genetic risk was high.

Conclusions: Indicators of genetic risk may help to distinguish individuals whose behavioral development is most sensitive to the duration of breastfeeding. Future research should seek to replicate and extend these findings by considering genetic factors as potential markers of differential susceptibility to breastfeeding duration.


Effects of Parental Divorce on Teenage Children’s Risk Behaviors: Incidence and Persistence

Geir Wæhler Gustavsen, Rodolfo Nayga & Ximing Wu

Journal of Family and Economic Issues, September 2016, Pages 474–487

It is generally difficult to separate the effects of divorce from selection when analyzing the effects of parental divorce on children’s risk behaviors. We used propensity score matching and longitudinal data methods to estimate the effects of parents’ divorce on their children’s binge drinking, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, marijuana use, and hard drug use. The children were between 12 and 18 years old in the first survey and between 18 and 24 years old in the second survey. Our results suggest that parental divorce significantly increased the probability of risk behaviors in their children. Moreover, many of these adverse impacts persisted over time, especially among teenage girls.


Like Father Like Son: How Does Parents' Financial Behavior Affect Their Children's Financial Behavior?

Ning Tang

Journal of Consumer Affairs, forthcoming

This paper investigates the intergenerational influence on financial behavior. Using two national longitudinal studies: the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey Children and Young Adults (NLSCYA) and the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey (NLSY79), we link the financial behavior of 2,520 young adults back to their general self-control skill and their parents' financial behavior conducted during children's adolescence. We find evidence of intergenerational consistency in financial behavior between parents and their children. Results from the generalized structural equation model indicate that parents' financial behavior affects that of their children both directly and indirectly through general self-control skill development. Furthermore, the influence of parents is moderated by parent–child relationship. These findings highlight the importance of parental financial socialization. Its implications are discussed.


Still standing out: Children's names in the United States during the Great Recession and correlations with economic indicators

Jean Twenge, Lauren Dawson & Keith Campbell

Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Continuing a long-standing trend in the U.S. Social Security Administration database of first names (N = 358 million), American parents were less likely to choose common names for their children between 2004 and 2015, including the years of the Great Recession (2008–2010). These trends were similar in California (severely affected by the recession) and Texas (less affected). Over a longer time period (1901–2015), cyclical economic indicators were either not correlated with common names (e.g., stock market performance) or worse economic times predicted fewer common names. The results are consistent with increasing individualism, with limited support for the idea that economic threat leads people to embrace uniqueness and no real support for the idea that economic deprivation leads to more communal name choices.


Women's Enfranchisement and Children's Education: The Long-Run Impact of the U.S. Suffrage Movement

Esra Kose, Elira Kuka & Na'ama Shenhav

Dartmouth College Working Paper, August 2016

While a growing literature has shown that empowering women leads to increased short-term investments in children, little is known about its long-term effects. We investigate the effect of women's political empowerment on children's human capital accumulation by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in U.S. state and federal suffrage laws. We estimate that exposure to women's suffrage during childhood leads to large increases in educational attainment for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, in particular blacks and Southern whites. An investigation into the mechanisms behind these effects suggests that the educational gains are plausibly driven by the rise in public expenditures following suffrage.


Industry Television Ratings for Violence, Sex, and Substance Use

Joy Gabrielli et al.

Pediatrics, September 2016

Methods: Seventeen TV shows (323 episodes and 9214 episode minutes) across several TV show rating categories (TVY7, TVPG, TV14, and TVMA) were evaluated. We content-coded the episodes, recording seconds of each risk behavior, and we rated the salience of violence in each one. Multilevel models were used to test for associations between TV rating categories and prevalence of risk behaviors across and within episodes or salience of violence.

Results: Every show had at least 1 risk behavior. Violence was pervasive, occurring in 70% of episodes overall and for 2.3 seconds per episode minute. Alcohol was also common (58% of shows, 2.3 seconds per minute), followed by sex (53% of episodes, 0.26 seconds per minute), and smoking (31% of shows, 0.54 seconds per minute). TV Parental Guidelines did not discriminate prevalence estimates of TV episode violence. Although TV-Y7 shows had significantly less substance use, other categories were poor at discriminating substance use, which was as common in TV-14 as TV-MA shows. Sex and gory violence were the only behaviors demonstrating a graded increase in prevalence and salience for older-child rating categories.

Conclusions: TV Parental Guidelines ratings were ineffective in discriminating shows for 3 out of 4 behaviors studied. Even in shows rated for children as young as 7 years, violence was prevalent, prominent, and salient. TV ratings were most effective for identification of sexual behavior and gory violence.


Adolescent Functioning in Housing and Family Contexts: A Mixed Methods Study

Margaret Elliott, Elizabeth Shuey & Tama Leventhal

Journal of Family Psychology, September 2016, Pages 676-686

Although adolescents begin to seek autonomy and strive to be out of the home on their own, the housing context remains the primary setting of their daily lives. Using survey and ethnographic data from Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three City Study (e.g., Winston et al., 1999), this study explored quantitatively and qualitatively how two salient aspects of the housing context, physical housing problems and household size, were associated with low-income adolescents’ emotional and academic functioning, and how these associations were modified by mother–adolescent relationships (specifically, trust and communication) and gender. Results of cross-lagged hierarchical linear models suggest that adolescents living in homes with more housing problems had more mental health symptoms, whereas living in larger households was associated with higher achievement, but only in the context of lower quality mother–adolescent relationships. Qualitative analyses helped to interpret these results by illuminating potential pathways underlying associations observed in quantitative results.


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