Abstract

Using data from the 1996 Survey of Income and Program Participation, we examine 4476 school-age children in 2569 families with matched pairs of married fathers and mothers to study children’s academic progress as a function of fathers’ and mothers’ employment circumstances, with a particular focus on involuntary employment separations. We draw on weekly work histories, collected at 4-month intervals, to characterize parental employment circumstances over a two-year period. Results find no significant associations between mothers’ employment experiences and children’s academic progress, even in households where mothers earn more than fathers. In contrast, fathers’ experience of involuntary employment separations is associated with children’s academic progress. On average, fathers’ experience of involuntary employment separations is associated with a higher likelihood of children’s grade repetition and suspension/expulsion from school. However, subgroup analyses reveal this association only in households where mothers earn more than fathers. We conclude that the adverse impacts of fathers’ involuntary employment separations in two-parent families have less to do with income losses than with family dynamics.

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