Do Dads Matter? Or Is It Just Their Money that Matters? Unpicking the Effects of Separation on Educational Outcomes

  • Ian Walker
  • Yu Zhu
Part of the International Series on Consumer Science book series (ISCS)


The widely held view that separation has adverse effects on children has been the basis of important policy interventions. While a small number of analyses have been concerned with selection into divorce, no studies have attempted to separate out the effects of one parent (mostly the father) leaving, from the effects of that parent’s money leaving, on the outcomes for the child. This paper is concerned with early school leaving and educational attainment and their relationship to parental separation and parental incomes. While we find that parental separation has strong effects on these outcomes, this result seems not to be robust to adding additional control variables. In particular, we find that when we include income our results then indicate that father’s departure appears to be unimportant for early school leaving and academic achievement, while income is significant. This suggests that income may have been an important unobservable, that is correlated with separation and the outcome variables, in earlier research. Indeed, this finding also seems to be true in our instrumental variables analysis – although the effect of income is slightly weakened.


Parental separation Parental incomes Early school leaving Educational attainment 



We are grateful to the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC’s Evidence Based Policy Network grant to the Institute for Fiscal Studies for co-funding this research. Andrew Oswald, Paul Devereux and Martin Browning have provided helpful comments and suggestion. The data was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Data-Archive at the University of Essex and is used with permission. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsLancaster University Management SchoolLancasterUK
  2. 2.University of KentCanterbury, KentUK

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