Unequal opportunities and public policy: The impact of parental disability benefits on child postsecondary attendance
Authors: Kelly Chen, Lars Osberg, and Shelley Phipps
This paper uses Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth to examine whether greater cash transfers available to parents with disabilities when their child was aged 5 to 15 increase the chances that the child will attend postsecondary education (PSE) as a young adult. We exploit differences across provinces and over time in the generosity of provincial disability benefits programs in Canada and find that higher disability benefits when the child was aged 5 to 15 years increase the probability that he or she will have attended or be attending PSE by age 19 to 25. The estimated effect size increases with the severity of the parental disability and the number of disabled parents. Because lower disability benefits significantly worsen performance of public school aged children on standardized math tests and elevate anxiety symptoms, one plausible pathway from disability benefit levels to PSE attendance may be through the cognitive and non-cognitive skills children acquire by the age of 15. We conclude that the level of disability transfers available early in a child’s life mitigates the impact of having a parent with a disability as a source of inequality of opportunity and of unequal probability of PSE participation.
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