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Consequences of Divorce for Childhood Education: Australia, Canada, and the USA, 1940–1990

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Parental divorce imposes a small but significant educational disadvantage on American children. Does this generalize across nations and over time? We analyze representative national samples from Australia (n=29,443) and Canada (n=28,266), together with US General Social Survey data (n=32,380). Using OLS and logistic regression with robust standard errors, we estimate models controlling many potentially confounding variables. Divorce costs seven-tenths of a year of education, mainly by reducing secondary school completion. Importantly, it has become more damaging in recent cohorts. Because this holds in all three nations, the explanation probably lies in common circumstances of, and parallel changes in, modern industrial societies.

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Sociology and Resource Economics, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Sociology, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557, USA; and, International Survey Center, Point Marka, NSW, 2545 Australia;, Email:; 3: Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4;, Email:


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