Date of Award

Fall 2006

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Karen S Conway


This dissertation consists of three separate but interrelated essays that investigate how family structure and public policy are linked to health and developmental child outcomes. Each essay employs two or three waves of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF) as the primary data source. The first essay broadly investigates how family structure, including the less typical non-traditional families such as single father and grandparent households, are related to a wide of array of child outcomes with a focus on the interplay of parent-child gender. The results from this study show that children in single father families have better health status than children living in all other non-traditional families. Adding economic resources and inputs appears to mitigate the adverse effect of poverty associated with non-traditional families, but does not eliminate such negative impact.

The second essay investigates how the State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), which are designed to provide coverage for uninsured children with family income too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to secure private insurance, affect coverage, medical care utilization and child health outcomes. I find strong and consistent evidence that the number of publicly insured children increases; however, the number of privately insured children also declines suggesting significant crowd-out. As a result, there are no consistent findings that SCHIP increased the overall number of insured children. The results also indicate that SCHIP programs encourage medical care utilization such as well-child care visits and doctor visits. Nevertheless, there is little evidence on the effectiveness of SCHIP with respect to improving children's health outcomes.

The third essay contributes to the sparse existing literature on two different fronts. First, it empirically investigates the impact of welfare reform on the formation of grandparent-headed households, while at the same time taking into account the interplay of other contemporary public programs such as state kinship care policies and SCHIP. Second, this essay explores the motivations underlying grandparent caregiving behaviors and offers insights to such behaviors from an economist's perspective. I do not find evidence that welfare reform encourage grandparent household formation. However, there is strong evidence that kinship care policies encourage grandparent caregiving behaviors.