Observers have long debated the importance of growing up with two parents for the economic opportunities it may afford children. Family Structure and the Economic Mobility of Children used a dataset that has tracked parents and their children since the late 1960s to explore the question of how children's economic mobility may differ based on their parent's family structure during childhood.
The report, co-authored by Thomas DeLeire of the University of Wisconsin and Leonard M. Lopoo of Syracuse University, compared the economic mobility outcomes for children who were born to single mothers, divorced parents, and continuously married parents.
The results, which compare parent and child incomes measured at similar ages indicate the following:
Divorce is particularly harmful for children's mobility:
Divorce appears to have more of an impact on the absolute mobility of African-American children than it does on white children:
The report also highlights the striking differences in economic mobility outcomes for white and African American children, but finds that family structure does not fully explain these differences.