Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fathers are drinking away their time with their children

It is no secret that growing up with an alcoholic parent is no fun. It is even worse for single parents. How bad this is is difficult to evaluate, as one would need data on alcohol consumption by parents and a measure of outcomes for children. Maybe some proxies can help here.

Gianna Claudia Giannelli, Lucia Mangiavacchi and Luca Piccoli take time spent with the children as a proxy for child wellbeing. They use a Russian survey and look at how much time each parent spends with the children, along with their alcohol consumption. They find that fathers care less about their children when they drink more, but there is no effect for mothers. In some ways, this reminds me of the paper by Siwan Anderson and Jean-Marie Baland that shows that mothers in Kenya use ROSCAs to keep money away from their (drinking) husbands, despite the fact that ROSCAs are a very inefficient savings technology.

But let us get back on topic. Is time spent with your children the best measure of child wellbeing? Certainly not, but it is supposed to be a proxy. But on theoretical grounds, I need a lot of convincing here. Indeed, if my parents had been alcoholic, I would have preferred, all else being equal, that they spent the least possible time with me. This would reverse the conclusion of the paper ("negative impact of fathers' alcohol consumption on child welfare," implying no impact of the mothers' alcohol consumption).

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