Panel Paper: Can a House be a Home? The Causal Effects of Foster Care on Child Outcomes

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Jefferson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Max Gross, University of Michigan

About 6% of children in the United States are placed in the foster care system between birth and age 18 (Wildeman and Emanuel, 2014). However, there is very little causal evidence of how foster care influences child wellbeing. This study leverages a natural experiment created by the quasi-random assignment of child maltreatment investigators. As some investigators recommend home removal at higher rates than others, children assigned to these investigators are more likely to be placed in foster care. With an instrumental variables framework, I study the causal effects of foster care for children at the margin of placement. I use administrative data from Michigan, which links Child Protective Service investigations to education and criminal justice records. Unlike previous papers which only study long run outcomes, I focus both on how foster care impacts schooling shortly after removal, and whether it affects involvement with the juvenile justice system several years later. This allows me to shed light on the mechanisms through which foster care influences people later in life.