Monday, October 31, 2016

UChicago study: "boys do especially poorly in broken families"

The Trouble with Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior

Marianne BertrandJessica Pan

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This paper explores the importance of the home and school environments in explaining the gender gap in disruptive behavior. We document large differences in the gender gap across key features of the home environment - boys do especially poorly in broken families. In contrast, we find little impact of the early school environment on non-cognitive gaps. Differences in endowments explain a small part of boys' non-cognitive deficit in single-mother families. More importantly, non-cognitive returns to parental inputs differ markedly by gender. Broken families are associated with worse parental inputs and boys' non-cognitive development, unlike girls', appears extremely responsive to such inputs.

(National Bureau of Economic Research)

When we look deeper into the reasons as to why boys are doing especially poorly when raised by single mothers, we find evidence suggesting that a small but non-trivial part of their disadvantage might be related to differential inputs, with single mothers investing more in their girls and feeling emotionally closer to them. Nevertheless, these findings are imprecise due in part to the small sample sizes and imperfect input measures available in this dataset. Turning to another dataset, the American Time Use Survey, we find corroborating evidence suggesting that single mothers spend significantly more time on childcare related activities with their girls relative to their boys. In contrast, there is no gender difference in childcare among children residing in two-parent families. These patterns are observed among children below the age of three, suggesting that these differences in parental inputs arise early in a child’s life. 

Read the full study HERE.