Why are Children with Married Parents Healthier? The Case of Asthma among Very Young Children

Kristen Harknett, University of Pennsylvania

Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, I find that children born to unmarried parents are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma and more likely to require emergency treatment for asthma early in life compared with children whose parents are married. Prior research has debated whether this type of “married-parent advantage” for children stems from socioeconomic differences across family structures (selection) or from differences in parenting. Because parents potentially play a large role in identifying and controlling asthma triggers in the household, we might expect the parenting component to be particularly important in the case of family structure disparities in asthma outcomes. Nevertheless, I find that a large portion of married-parent advantage stems from the socioeconomic and demographic correlates of marriage and that parenting behaviors play a very small role in explaining family structure disparities in children’s asthma outcomes.

  See paper

Presented in Session 158: Early Health Influences and Impacts