Does parental absence reduce cognitive achievements? Evidence from rural China
Journal of Development Economics
China, Cognitive achievement, Left-behind children, Migrating parents
Many children worldwide are left-behind by parents migrating for work - over 61 million in rural China alone, almost half of whom are left-behind by both parents. While previous literature considers impacts of one parent absent on educational inputs (e.g., study time, enrollment, schooling attainment), this study directly investigates impacts on children's learning (test scores) and distinguishes impacts of absence of one versus both parents. Dynamic panel methods that control for both unobserved individual heterogeneity and endogeneity in parental absence are used with data collected from rural China. The estimates indicate significant negative impacts of being left-behind by both parents on children's cognitive development, reducing their contemporary achievements by 5.4 percentile points for math and 5.1 percentile points for Chinese, but much smaller insignificant impacts of being left-behind by one parent. Cross-sectional evidence indicates that only absence of both parents is associated with substantially lower family inputs in after-school tutoring.
Copyright © 2014 Published by Elsevier B.V.
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Zhang, H., Behrman, J. R., Fan, C. S., Wei, X., & Zhang, J. (2014). Does parental absence reduce cognitive achievements? Evidence from rural China. Journal of Development Economics, 111, 181-195. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2014.09.004