Change in the educational gradient of parental divorce in Spain and children’s educational attainment: a simultaneous equation approach

Fabrizio Bernardi, European University Institute
Chiara Ludovica Comolli, European University Institute

The literature on marital disruption and its consequences for children has flourished substantially even though findings are far from conclusive. In this paper we shed light on the heterogeneous socioeconomic determinants and consequences of divorce in Spain. Empirical evidence on the determinants of marital dissolution has shown the reversal over time of the educational gradient of divorce in many countries. However, results on Spain show that during the nineties the gradient was positive or null. In this paper we first verify, using very recent data (2013 Encuesta social general Espanola), whether an educational gradient of divorce exists. Secondly, we address the heterogeneous effects of parental separation on children’ educational outcome, depending on parental background. Empirical evidence is divided between studies showing that socio-economically advantaged families manage to buffer their offspring from the negative consequences of divorce, and studies finding that the divorce penalty is instead smaller among children with a lower socioeconomic origin. There are various theoretical explanations for both results but we are particularly interested in the selection mechanism into divorce that might also explain children education. As a third contribution we link the first analysis on the educational gradient of parental separation to the second on the heterogeneous consequences of parental separation on children’s educational attainment by parental education. Since divorce is not a random event but it is more likely to occur in troubled families, there might be unobserved characteristics influencing both parental separation and children education. The key issue is whether there is selection by parental education on the risk of divorce based on these unobserved characteristics that also affect children education. Using a simultaneous equation model of the educational determinants of marital dissolution and the consequences for children with divorced parents with different educational levels, we aim at identifying and quantify this selection mechanism.

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Presented in Poster Session 1