The role of mothers and fathers in providing skills - Evidence from parental deaths

Author: Helena Holmlund, And Anders Björklund, And Jérome Adda, And
Dnr: 222/2015

The purpose of this study is to investigate the roles of mothers and fathers in providing skills by examining evidence from parental deaths in childhood. Childhood bereavement does not only constitute an emotional shock but also a loss of parental inputs and a permanent shock to family income, which can have long-lasting consequences. We are primarily interested in examining differential effects by mothers and fathers, and for boys and girls, respectively. Moreover, we will examine differential effects by the child’s age. Such differential effects will add to the stock of knowledge on child development by providing evidence on the relative importance of mothers and fathers for girls and boys, and by investigating whether there are particular periods in childhood where children are particularly sensitive.

Children’s skills and other outcomes will be measured both during adolescence (GPA at age 16, cognitive and non-cognitive scores at age 18) and in adulthood (completed education, income and family formation). This rich set of outcomes implies that we can provide a complete picture of both short- and long-run consequences of the bereavement of a parent in childhood.

Bereavement of a parent is not a random event and occurs more frequently in disadvantaged households. Comparing children who have lost a parent to other children is therefore not likely to provide a causal estimate, because of unobserved differences in family background. The project will develop methods to deal with the endogeneity of parental deaths, in order to provide causal evidence. We will account for differences in children’s socio-economic background and test our specification by a number of ‘placebo’ tests.