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Working Paper No. 10-06

Match Quality and Maternal Investments in Children
Erin K.Fletcher
October 2010


Divorce and union dissolution as well as investments in children are associated with significant effects on children's outcomes. Here, I examine factors that might lead to union dissolution and their relationship to investments in children's cognitive skills. Using subjective measures of match quality as reported by mothers in relationships with the childs father, I show that women who report less satisfaction in their relationships spend less time reading with their children. I include baseline measures of relationship quality and various socioeconomic characteristics to control for unobserved heterogeneity. I test various theoretical mechanisms by which we would expect women to decrease their investments in a child using additional information about the match including the couples argument frequency and whether the union dissolves in the future. The anticipation of a unions dissolution decreases investments in children while the relationship is intact, but argument frequency and mothers estimation of the fathers character do not have a measurable effect. The results suggest that subjective measures tell a more complete story about match quality than indicated by future union dissolution, argument frequency or parental quality. Thus the concentration by policymakers on the marginal decision of divorce or dissolution ignores the heterogeneity within relationships and its effects on children.

Keywords: Match Quality, Cognitive Skills, Paternal Investments in Children