The Effects of Child Health on Marital Status

35 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2007 Last revised: 16 Jul 2010

See all articles by Hope Corman

Hope Corman

Rider University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Robert Kaestner

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 1991


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.

Suggested Citation

Corman, Hope and Kaestner, Robert, The Effects of Child Health on Marital Status (September 1991). NBER Working Paper No. w3850, Available at SSRN:

Hope Corman (Contact Author)

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Robert Kaestner

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