Parental divorce is not uniformly disruptive to children’s educational attainment

Jennie E. Brand, Ravaris Moore, Xi Song, Yu Xie

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39 Scopus citations


Children whose parents divorce tend to have worse educational outcomes than children whose parents stay married. However, not all children respond identically to their parents divorcing. We focus on how the impact of parental divorce on children’s education varies by how likely or unlikely divorce was for those parents. We find a significant negative effect of parental divorce on educational attainment, particularly college attendance and completion, among children whose parents were unlikely to divorce. Families expecting marital stability, unprepared for disruption, may experience considerable adjustment difficulties when divorce occurs, leading to negative outcomes for children. By contrast, we find no effect of parental divorce among children whose parents were likely to divorce. Children of high-risk marriages, who face many social disadvantages over childhood irrespective of parental marital status, may anticipate or otherwise accommodate to the dissolution of their parents’ marriage. Our results suggest that family disruption does not uniformly disrupt children’s attainment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7266-7271
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 9 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Causal analysis
  • Divorce
  • Educational attainment
  • Heterogeneity
  • Propensity score


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