The Long-Run Effect of Parental Absence: Evidence from Mining Accidents
Roughly one quarter of children currently grow up in a single-parent household in the United States. Yet little is known about the causal effects of parental absence on a child's adulthood labor-market outcomes. Examining the relationship between parental absence and a child's long-run outcomes presents two key challenges. First, one must identify a plausible counterfactual since parental absence is not randomly assigned. In other words: what would a child's labor-market outcomes have been like had their parents been present? Second, one needs sufficient longitudinal data that links both parental absence and adulthood outcomes for both the affected and counterfactual groups. In this study I examine parental death, the most severe form of parental absence, by leveraging an individual-level historical dataset and a natural experiment that yields plausibly exogenous variation in parental death. Specifically, I use digitized records of nearly all mining accidents in the U.S. during the early 20th century, and compare the adulthood labor-market outcomes of children of fatal mining accident victims to children whose parents suffered serious, yet non-fatal accidents. Children who lost their parents in a mining accident earn less wage income as adults. Subgroup analyses indicate that those who experienced the loss of a parent relatively early during childhood are substantially worse off. Exploring potential channels, I find that the bereaved are more likely to report spells of unemployment, work in less-skilled occupations, and migrate away from their childhood county of residence as adults.
Goldstein, E. G. (2020, August). The Long-Run Effect of Parental Absence: Evidence from Mining Accidents.
Goldstein, Ezra G. “The Long-Run Effect of Parental Absence: Evidence from Mining Accidents,” August 2020.
Goldstein, Ezra G. The Long-Run Effect of Parental Absence: Evidence from Mining Accidents. Aug. 2020.