Single-mother families and the gender gap in children’s time investment and non-cognitive skills

Letizia Mencarini, Silvia Pasqua, Agnese Romiti

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This paper analyzes the role of family structure in the gender gap in children’s time investment in studying and non-cognitive skills. We focus on Italy, a country that, similar to many other OECD countries, is experiencing both an increasing number of single-parent families (most of which are headed by mothers) and an increasing gender gap in children’s cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. By using a difference-in-differences specification comparing children’s outcomes in single- vs. two-parent families for boys compared to girls, we analyze the differential effect across gender of living with a single mother on both the amount of time spent studying and the amount of effort put into studying. Our analysis suggests that living in a single-mother family has a more detrimental effect on boys, though all children —regardless of gender—receive fewer parental inputs if they live with a single mother. The greater detrimental effect of living with a single mother for boys seems to be driven by less educated, less well-off families or families with working mothers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Early online date24 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Aug 2017


  • children time investment
  • non-cognative skill
  • single mother families

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