MPIDR Working Paper

Parental separation and children’s education – changes over time?

Kailaheimo-Lönnqvist, S., Jalovaara, M., Myrskylä, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-036, 35 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (August 2023)
Open Access


Objective and background: The association between parental separation and children’s education has been widely studied, but mostly at a single time point, for one educational outcome at a time and for marital dissolution only. We examine whether the (generally negative) association has changed across cohorts for several educational outcomes and whether the association differs by parental union type (marriage, cohabitation) and family background (parental education). Due to high rates of separation, the association with children’s education could have weakened over time.

Methods: We use Finnish total population register data. We focus on child cohorts born between 1987 and 2003 (N=1,004,823) and analyse grade point averages, secondary education and tertiary education using linear probability models with standard errors clustered within families.

Results and conclusion: The association between parental separation and educational achievement is negative and has remained similar across the birth cohorts. Differences according to parental union type and socioeconomic family background are small and do not exhibit changes over time. The stability of the association over time suggests that the consequences of parental separation on children’s education have not changed, even though attitudes towards separation may have changed.

Keywords: parental separation, parental divorce, children’s education, cohort differences

Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.