Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor/ Director, Sociology / James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of Pennsylvania
Single-Parenthood and Children’s Education in Japan, South Korea and the United States

Divorce rate in Japan has sharply increased during the last decades, which suggests that a growing number of Japanese children will live with a single parent at least in a time point before adulthood. The trend of rising divorce has important implications for Japanese children ' s well-being and changing social inequality in the next generation . Despite a growing body of research on changing marriage and divorce patterns among Japanese adults, little research empirically assesses potential consequences of the changes in marriage and divorce for the evolution of social inequality in the next generation. As the first step in my long-term research project that will examine the consequences of the rising divorce for children's well-being, this proposed research addresses potential consequences of the growing divorce for children ' s education by comparing educational outcomes between children with a single parent and those with two parents. I compare educational disadvantage associated with single-parenthood in Japan to that in South Korean and the United States. Showing considerably large educational gaps between children growing up in single-parent families and their counterparts in intact families, the United States is a useful reference for which the effect of single-parenthood in Japan can be compared. Different cultural and family systems between the two countries will also help explain why the effects of single-parenthood differ depending on country-specific environments of family and welfare systems. Considering that South Korea and Japan show similar family systems and policies, comparison between the two countries will enhance our understanding of how underlying family environments shape the ways in which single-parenthood influences children ' s education. After comparing the effects of single-parenthood in the three countries, I move to explore the extent to which family economic conditions and parental involvement in children' s education account for why children in single-parent families do worse than those in intact families. Previous literature in the United States has shown that poorer economic conditions and less parental involvement among single-parent families than among intact families are two major factors in accounting for the effect of single-parenthood . I investigate how the pattern of relative importance of family economic standing and parental involvement may vary across Japan, Korea, and the United States. Interpreting findings, I focus on family and welfare systems in each society to explain why such patterns exist. To address the issues, I rely on statistical analyses of student-level data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Conducted in 32 countries including Japan, South Korea and the United States, PISA provides comparable measures of family structure, family background and educational outcomes, which facilitates cross-national comparisons. Specifically, I use ordinary least square regression and logistic regression models that predict student' s educational outcomes by single-parenthood, family economic conditions, and parental involvement . In the conclusion, I will discuss policy implications of the empirical results for changing educational inequality in the context of rising divorce in each country.