Gendered diverging destinies

We (Diederik Boertien and I) have just uploaded a new working paper with a critical discussion of the diverging destinies thesis, additional analyses on the heterogeneity of the union dissolution penalty by socio-economic background in USA and, most importantly, a separate test of the diverging destinites thesis for boys and girls .

According to the diverging destinies thesis, demographic changes such as the diffusion of parental divorce and single motherhood contribute to a reinforcement of intergenerational social inequality. The diverging destinies thesis rests on two tenants.

  1. Children of single mother or separated parentes have on average lower academic achivement and educational attainment (i.e. there is a penalty associated to growing up in non standar families).
  2. Single motherhood and union dissolution is more common among low educated parents (there is an higher incidence (prevalence?) of non standard families among those who are low educated) 

Demographic changes lead then to diverging destinies of children of low and highly educated mothers. Our major contribution to this debate (already published here) is that we show that one has also to take into account the heterogeneity of the penalty associated to growing up in a non standard family. There is a rather ample body of evidence nowadays that shows that the negative consequences of union dissolution for educational attainment are larger for children of highly educated parents compared to children of low educated parents. Children of highly educated parents are those who have more to lose in case of parental separation. When taking into account the heterogeneity of the penalty, no support for the DD was found.

In this new paper we extend prior work by estimating Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition models for educational attainment by family structure, separately for boys and girls. Our main finding is that the diverging thesis argument that demographic transformations lead to enhanced inequality by parental SES seems to be valid for girls, but not for boys. 

This result is puzzling because boys and girls grow up in the same household. See the conclusions of the paper for a possible explanation of this finding.

Spoiler: The finding of “gendered diverging destinies” is in line with previous results that show that outcomes of boys depend more on the academic environment at school and at home. The possible explanations then refer to gender identity construction. In adolescence, among boys a bad academic achievement can be an important option for masculine identity formation. Among girls being a bad student is less related to the formation of a female identity. This is why boys seem more sensitive to the school and family academic enviroment

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