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Research Paper

Do fathers really matter? Or is it just their money that matters? Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey


Publication date

01 Nov 2005


It is widely thought that separation has real adverse effects on children. This
presumption has been the basis of important policy interventions. However, few
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 a number of outcomes and their relationship to
parental separation, and parental incomes. By exploiting the Youth Survey records of
the British Household Panel Survey, we investigate 'real' outcomes: early school
leaving and educational attainment. We also investigate attitudinal data on intentions
to leave school early and a direct, albeit subjective, measure of the well-being of the
While we find that parental separation has strong effects on child well-being,
and this result seems to be robust to adding additional control variables, it does not
carry over to our instrumental variables analysis. This suggests that there are
important unobservables that are correlated with separation and our outcome
variables. Indeed, father’s income does not seem to matter for unhappiness. Rather,
we find father’s departure appears to be unimportant for children’s intention to leave
school at the earliest opportunity, actual leaving, and real academic achievements,
while income is significant.


Child Development, Family Formation And Dissolution, Income Dynamics, and Well Being



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