The Effects of Parents' Psychiatric Disorders on Children's High School Dropout
Marcotte, Dave E.
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Mental illness is known to impose substantial direct costs on the ill. In this paper, we examine an indirect cost of mental illness. We investigate the effect of parents’ mental illnesses on the schooling of their children. Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey, we find that parents’ mental illnesses increase the probability of high school dropout of children, though these effects differ markedly with disease. We also find that parental mental illness has more consistently negative effects on girls than on boys. These findings indicate that parental mental illness can have a powerful impact on children’s schooling and subsequently on their adult lives. The larger impact on girls’ schooling compounds the greater earnings and employment losses due to mental illness borne by adult women. Our results suggest that policies designed to mitigate the effects of parental mental illness on children’s schooling attainment are potentially efficient uses of society’s resources.