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Author: Reyes Hartley, Gonzalo Javier
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1. Reyes Hartley, Gonzalo Javier
Essays on the Economics of the Family
Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 2004
Cohort(s): Children of the NLSY79, NLSY79
Publisher: UMI - University Microfilms, Bell and Howell Information and Learning
Keyword(s): Behavior Problems Index (BPI); Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT); Poverty; Welfare

This thesis consists of three chapters that focus on the economic analysis of families and the effects of public policies. The first chapter presents an empirical analysis of the effects of unilateral divorce laws on measures of family structure and youth welfare. Exploiting interstate variation in the timing of implementation of these laws during the 1970s, I find that this legislation caused not only a rise in divorce rates, but also an increase in remarriages. I find a robust positive and significant effect on suicide rates in the 15-19 age group. I do not find a robust impact of the law on milder measures of youth well-being. Overall, these results suggest that although unilateral divorce laws allow adults to re-optimize more easily, they impose external costs on children.

The second chapter analyzes the effects of welfare reform on maternal monitoring and children outcomes in households headed by low educated single mothers. Using data from NLSY79, I find that welfare waivers significantly increased the labor force participation of this group. However, this did not translate into decreased activities shared with children. Additionally, mothers whose employment decisions are affected by welfare reform are both more likely to use certain disciplinary measures and to praise their kids. There are no general harmful effects of welfare reform on children's cognitive ability, while there is a marked decrease in behavioral problems, especially for girls and children older than 6.

The third chapter proposes that education acquired by children may augment the human capital of their parents, particularly for immigrants. I present a model where, upon migration, individuals lose part of their human capital and need to acquire country specific human capital. Children present a natural advantage in obtaining this kind of human capital and transmit it to their parents. Empirical evidence using the Latino sub-sample of the PSID shows that the years of education attained by children in the United States have a positive effect on their parents' wages. This effect is significant for kids living within the household and decreasing in the amount of education obtained by the child in her country of origin.
Bibliography Citation
Reyes Hartley, Gonzalo Javier. Essays on the Economics of the Family. Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 2004.