We use the 1988, 1990, and 1992 waves of data from the National Education Longitudinal Study to examine the effects of family structure and family transitions on adolescent high school dropout. Our study differs from previous studies by using a large longitudinal sample (N = 21,420) and applying event history analysis with standard errors corrected for clustered sampling. Our study has two major contributions. First, we examine single-mother, single-father, stepmother, and stepfather families separately. Controlling for socioeconomic status, children from single-mother families are doing better than children from single-father and stepparent families. Second, using event history we can determine the causal order between family transitions and high school dropout rates. We find high school students are not hurt by their parents marrying, remarrying, or starting a cohabiting relationship, but are negatively affected by a parental divorce or separation during the high school years.
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