Estimating Children''s Household Instability between Birth and Age 16 Using Longitudinal Household Roster Data (SIPP)

Kelly Raley, University of Texas
Inbar Weiss, University of Texas
Shannon Cavanagh, University of Texas

Previous research has established the importance of family instability for child outcomes, theorizing that changes in family composition disrupts routines and inhibits effective parenting. Estimates of childhood exposure to family instability has typically focused on transitions of mothers into and out of marital and cohabiting relationships. Yet, there are many other potential sources of household instability which might also disrupt routines. This research produces estimates of household instability in the United States, based on data from the 2008 and 2014 Surveys of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Overall we find that marital-cohabitation transitions are only a small portion of family transitions children are exposed to. We also find substantial variation across race-ethnicity and maternal education.

Thispaper aims to use the longitudinal data available in the Survey of Income andProgram Participation (SIPP) to describe levels of household instability childrenexperience while growing up and how this varies by race-ethnicity and parentaleducation. Recent estimates from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) showthat on average children experience about one transition by age 12, countingonly mothers’ marital-cohabitation transitions. How does this estimate compareto those that consider other sources of household instability? Our analyseswill also consider variation by race-ethnicity and education.

We use dataon over 130,000, collected September 2008 to August 2013, in 15 waves ofinterviews conducted four months apart. Our approach does not assume thatchildren live with mothers and does not rely on retrospective reports, but insteadcontemporaneous ones. Every interview collected a roster of household members andeach member of the household has a unique identifier. Our measure ofcomposition change, captures any change in household membership by comparingthe sets of unique identifiers in consecutive waves and includes situationswhere a child moves out of a household or where other members move out.

RESULTS

Table 1presents the relationship of each household member to each child in each wave acrossall waves for all children less than age 18 and by race-ethnicity and householdereducation. Figure 1 presents household instability by age. The top linerepresents the rate of household change, including both composition and addresschanges. Generally, instability is greatest at younger ages.  

Table 2 showsthe cumulative number of household changes experienced by a child’s 16thbirthday. Our estimates of household instability are much higher than previousestimates that focus on instability due to maternal relationship formation anddissolution. Focusing on household changes where a parent moved into or out ofthe household, we get estimates much more similar to previous research.

Table 3,which describes the relationships of people entering and leaving the child’shousehold to the child, confirms this. Only 16.6 percent of the people enteringor leaving a child’s household are parents, while siblings are over a quarter.Other adults, including aunts, uncles, cousins as well as non-relatives andindividuals with inconsistent relationships to the child, are a third of thepeople entering and leaving.  


Table 1. Percent Distribution of  Relationships of Household members to Children, household size, percentage of children with someone other than a parent or sibling in the household.

 

Relationship

Total

By Race-Ethnicity

 

By Householder Education 

 

 

 

Non-Hispanic White

Black

Asian

Non-Hispanic Other

Hispanic

 

Less than High School

High School Diploma

Some College

College Degree

 

Parent

44.9

50.3

35.3

49.4

42.1

39.1

33.3

41.3

45.3

54.2

 

Sibling

39.3

39.3

40.8

35.0

36.7

39.6

41.4

38.2

39.8

38.4

 

Other

11.1

6.9

18.1

10.2

15.5

14.9

17.3

14.2

10.8

5.1

 

Unknown

4.8

3.5

5.8

5.4

5.7

6.5

8.0

6.3

4.1

2.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average # HH members (other than child)

3.6

3.5

3.5

3.8

3.6

4.2

 

4.4

3.7

3.5

3.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

% Children Living w/ someone not a parent or sibling

22.7

16.5

32.5

25.5

30.8

30.8

 

36.1

28.8

21.8

11.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N Children

37,067

20,634

5,801

1,444

2,103

7,085

 

5,621

8,910

13,209

9,327

 

N Child-Waves

312,316

177,026

45,722

12,200

16,608

60,760

 

43,199

73,713

109,650

85,754

 

 

Table 2. Cumulative number of Household Changes by Age 15 by Race-Ethnicity and by Householder Education

By Race-Ethnicity

By Householder Education

 

Total

Non-Hispanic White

Black

Asian

Other (multi-racial)

Hispanic

 

Less than High School

High School

Some College

College Grad

All Changes

6.1

5.2

7.8

4.4

7.9

6.9

 

7.8

7.0

6.6

3.8

Address Changes

3.1

2.7

4.4

2.3

3.9

3.3

5.7

3.6

3.6

1.9

Composition Changes

4.2

3.6

5.2

2.6

5.8

4.9

 

5.7

5.0

4.5

2.5

% Comp

69.4

69.1

67.3

60.5

74.1

71.7

73.1

71.5

68.5

65.2

Parental Changes

1.2

1.1

1.5

0.6

1.3

1.2

0.9

1.1

1.1

0.5

% Parental

28.5

31.7

28.6

22.3

22.5

24.7

 

16.1

21.8

23.4

19.8

 

Table 3. Relationships of People entering/leaving child''s household to Child

Relationship

Total

By Race-Ethnicity

 

 

 

By Householder Education 

NHWhite

Black

Asian

Other

Hispanic

 

<HS

HS

Some College

College+

Parent

16.6

20.3

14.0

11.6

14.4

13.1

11.7

16.6

18.9

18.1

Sibling

27.3

31.8

24.4

28.9

21.3

23.3

24.1

24.3

27.8

37.2

Grandparent

10.6

10.1

12.0

12.4

12.0

9.9

9.6

11.9

10.8

9.1

Other Adult

33.7

28.7

36.0

36.6

36.6

39.7

39.2

35.0

31.5

28.3

Other Child

11.7

9.1

13.5

10.6

15.8

14.0

 

15.4

12.1

11.0

7.3

CONCLUSION

Childrenoften live with non-nuclear kin; over one in five children live with people whoare neither a parent nor a sibling.  Our analyses also show that typical measuresof instability miss most household instability. We determine that childrenexperience an average of 6.1 household transitions before reaching age 16. Wealso find that household complexity and instability are much greater forrace-ethnic minorities and for children in educationally disadvantagedhouseholds.

 

Presented in Session 1106: Families and Households