We investigate how the presence and education of parents affect adolescents' school attendance, work participation, and school attainment in Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama. Across the four countries, approximately 20% of adolescents live in single-mother families and 4% in single-father families. Adolescents who live in single-mother families have significantly lower school attendance and attainment than adolescents who live with both parents. However, the effects of living in a single-mother family are small relative to the effects of parents' education. Adolescents who live in single-mother families are not more likely to work than adolescents in two-parent families. Finally, targeting benefits to children in single-mother families would reach more children at risk of poor school outcomes than targeting children in female-headed households.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-286
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Child labor
  • Education
  • Female-headship
  • Latin America
  • Single parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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