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Abstract

Marital disruptions, such as divorced parents or absent fathers, are associated with lower educational attainment for the children of these families. The present study examines how youth volunteerism and employment mitigate the effect of these marital disruptions. The hypothesis is that youth volunteerism and employment increase the likelihood that these youths will graduate from high school or obtain a GED by the typical time of high school graduation, at around age 19. The primary outcome measure was the completion of a high school diploma or GED by age 19 or 20. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and accompanying Child/Young Adult (CYA) supplements, the estimated effects of youth volunteerism and employment on the probability of obtaining a high school diploma or GED by the age of 19 or 20 among those who ever obtain their high school diploma or GED, as compared to the base group of a nuclear family with the child neither volunteering nor employed, are 3.05 percentage points (p = 0.008) and 2.49 percentage points (p = 0.064), respectively, with employment having a (negative) differential effect for children who end up with a GED (–15.31 percentage points total, p < 0.1). There were no other significant interaction terms, indicating that volunteering is beneficial in its own right. These findings indicate that volunteer activities should be studied and utilized as a means to improve the outcomes of children of non-nuclear families.

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