Job Market Paper:

The Other Costs of Children: Motherhood, Substance Use, and Depression

There is an extensive theoretical literature advancing the negative effects of the number of children on the outcomes of mothers. While several studies have examined the impact of fertility on labor market and health outcomes, little research to date has considered its effect on mental health and substance use. I use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and a variety of empirical strategies to explore the causal effect of family size on maternal depression and drug use. To address the endogeneity of fertility decisions, I use two natural experiments that exogenously increase the number of children—parity-specific twin births and the gender composition of the first two children. My results provide suggestive evidence that an increase in family size at the third birth parity leads to a substantial rise in a mother's depressive symptoms. The main findings indicate that a third birth induced by a twin birth or the same-sex composition of the first two children or twin birth at the second parity increases the probability of alcohol consumption by about 5.0 percentage points. Both on the extensive and intensive margins, a larger family size also leads to a substantial increase in maternal binge drinking. The estimated effects on alcohol consumption are even greater for married mothers. While an additional child is detrimental for drinking behaviors, I do not find strong evidence of increased marijuana use after the birth of an additional child.

Other Working Papers:

Contraception and Abortion Legislation: An Explanation for the Exodus of Southern Whites from the Democratic Party (with Jorge Luis García)

In the second half of the twentieth century, the United States political economy experienced one of the most striking partisan shifts in a contemporary democracy: the exodus of white Southerners from the Democratic Party. Despite about 50 years of research, the existing literature has reached no conclusive agreement regarding the cause of this substantial shift. While prior studies suggest that race or economic change explain the entire political transformation, we study a novel potential underlying cause of this debated shift: the liberalization of the Democratic Party on the issues of prescription contraception and abortion access. Using repeated cross-sectional Gallup surveys merged with state-level reproductive control access policies, we provide evidence that contraception and abortion access laws also contributed to the declining Democratic support of white Southerners from 1958 to 2003.

Works in Progress:

Sibship Size and Children's Substance Use

The Effect of the High School Minimum Dropout Age on Substance Use

Contact Information:

John E. Walker Department of Economics

Clemson University

Sirrine 417

Clemson, SC 29634


Phone: (860)761-4676

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