Abstract: Long-Run Impact of Residential Moves in Childhood on Adult Achievement (Society for Prevention Research 22nd Annual Meeting)

121 Long-Run Impact of Residential Moves in Childhood on Adult Achievement

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Yellowstone (Hyatt Regency Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Kathleen Ziol-Guest, PhD, Assistant Professor, New York University, New York, NY
Residential moves, particularly frequent moves (i.e., moving three or more times), are hypothesized to be stressful for children and adolescents. Frequent household moves may be correlated with negative child development outcomes because such moves are accompanied by frequent changes in schools and are disruptive to children’s social capital and peer networks.  Much of the existing literature suggests that moving may have larger effects on adolescents than young children. However, Cunha, Heckman, Lochman, and Masterov (2005) propose an economic model of development in which preschool cognitive and socio-emotional capacities are key ingredients for human capital acquisition during the school years. In their model, “skill begets skill” and early capacities can affect the productivity of school-age human capital investments. In this model, moving in childhood could create disparities in school readiness and early academic success that persist or widen over the course of childhood.

This paper follows this model by focusing on the entire childhood and adds to the existing literature in a number of ways.  First, the long-run (adult) impacts of moving during childhood have not yet been established using high-quality longitudinal data that spans the entire life course from birth to adulthood. Second, there is limited empirical evidence bearing on the developmental timing of the links between moving and later-life achievement, health, and behavior. Finally, the causal linkages between childhood housing instability and later life outcomes have yet to be demonstrated.

This paper assesses the consequences of childhood residential moves over the years from birth to age 15 for a range of achievement outcomes measured as young as age 24 and as old as age 41. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) of children born between 1968 and 1982, this study examines the relationship between the number, developmental timing, and nature of childhood moves and adult earnings, work hours, and educational attainment.  On average, moving three or more times or experiencing any involuntary move between birth and age 15 is associated with worse outcomes in adulthood, especially in terms of educational attainment. The results further show the sensitivity of the middle childhood period (ages 6-10) to residential moves. In this period, any moves at all, whether voluntary or involuntary, are associated with worse outcomes on all three measures. The findings are generally robust to family fixed effects.