The Effects of Child Health on Marital Status
The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence on the effect of child health on marital stability and family structure within an economic framework. We use the 1988 National Health Interview Survey's Child Health Supplement, with a sample of about 9,000 families to test whether having an unhealthy child decreases the mother's chance of being married, and whether it increases her chance of living in an extended family. Using two different measures of child health, we find that having an unhealthy child does decrease the mother's likelihood of being married. Our results are strongest for white women who were married at the time of the child's birth and for black women who were unmarried at that time. These results imply that children in poor health will, more likely, face obstacles beyond their illness, since they will also be more likely to suffer consequences of poverty and poor schooling outcomes which results when raised in a female headed household. The only mitigating factor is that, for white children, they will be more likely than healthy children to living in an extended family.