The Differential Impact of College on Becoming a Single Parent

Amber Villalobos , University of California, Los Angeles
Jennie E. Brand, University of California, Los Angeles

Previous research has found heterogeneity in the effects of college completion on family formation patterns. However, scholars have not yet examined heterogeneity in the joint effect of college on fertility and marital status via single parenthood- an important predictor of inequality. Using data from National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), we ask how the effect of college on single parenthood differs across the college-going population using both theoretically-driven propensity score and covariate-stratified models and data-driven machine-learning models based on causal trees. We find large negative effects of college completion on ever being a single parent and the proportion of time spent as a single parent for students with a low propensity to complete college. We also uncover particular disadvantaged subpopulations for whom college circumvents single parenthood. In general, students on the margins are thus those for whom college significantly circumvents family disadvantage.

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 Presented in Session 158. Transition to Adulthood Among Vulnerable Youth