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The dramatic increase in divorce is expected to have led to the increase of singleparent families overall, other factors being held constant. It is also expected that among total single-parent families the relative share of single-parent families due to divorce has increased, while the relative share of single-parent families resulting from the death of a parent has decreased along with a signiﬁcant decline in mortality.2 Because data are not available at the level of household or family, I can only present the change in the proportion of speciﬁc age groups by marital status to gauge the trend of prevalence of single-parent families. Between 1975 and 2000, the percentage of those aged 40-44 (note that the respondents in KEEP are middle-school seniors (14 years old) and high-school seniors (17 years old)) who were married declined from 92.9 to 89.7 (Chang & Min, 2002). During this period, the proportion of those divorced increased four times from 1.0 percent to 4.3 percent, while the proportion of those widowed decreased from 5.7 percent to 2.2 percent. In result, in 2000 the proportion of those aged 40-44 who were single due to divorce was twice as high as the proportion due to widowhood. The rapid increase of the proportion of divorce on the one hand and the decline of the proportion of the widowed on the other hand is also found among aged 45-49.
4.2 The public welfare system and labor market The signiﬁcant increase of single parenthood raises an important issue of educational disadvantages among children growing up with a single parent, given the overall low level of public provisions for children and family in Korea. Korea has a conservative social welfare system with very low levels of spending by the government on social programs. For instance, public expenditure on family (including both cash and other kinds of beneﬁts) as a percentage of GDP (Growth Domestic Product) was only 0.1 percent in Korea in 2000 showing the lowest level among OECD countries, whereas the corresponding percentage in Denmark, Finland, and Norway was over 3 percent (OECD, 2004). An indicator of public support for children’s education tells a similar story. In Korea, private funds that came from individuals or households accounted for 77 percent of total expenditures on tertiary education in 2000, the highest among the OECD countries providing expenditure 2 The crude death rate, which indicates the total number of deaths per 1000 people, has declined from 8.0 in 1970 to 5.1 in 2003 (KNSO, 2005).
data. Indeed, except for Korea, only two countries, Japan (55 percent) and the U.S. (66 percent) had more than half of the expenditure on tertiary education funded by the private sector, while in other OECD countries most of the expenditure on tertiary education was from public sources (OECD, 2003). In addition to the overall low levels of social welfare provision, substantial social policies particularly geared toward single-parent families have not been implemented in Korea.
The vulnerable conditions of children living with a single parent, associated with the low level of public support, are expected to be particularly severe among those with a single mother. Although the rate of Korean women’s labor participation has steadily increased over time, still only a half of women in working age are in labor force (48.9% in 2003; KNSO, 2005). Moreover, the Korean economy is distinct with a comparably high proportion of women engaged in unpaid family work or self-employment, which indicates the overall unstable and informal features of women’s employment (Brinton, 2001). Even within the formal sector of employment, women are more likely to be in positions with much lower incomes than their male counterparts (Monk-Turner & Turner, 2000). In sum, the employment structure in Korea is characterized by the marginalization of women in the labor market and a wage system based on the male-breadwinner model.
These characteristics of the employment environment in Korea imply that children with a single mother are at particularly high risk of economic deprivation.
In addition to severe economic deprivation that children in single-parent families may face, a strong negative stigma attached to the children of single parents is apparent in Korea. Despite recent changing views on single parenthood in Korea along with the growing prevalence (Yoo, 2006), young children growing up with a single parent, particularly a divorced parent, still suffer from various psychological difﬁculties caused by negative attitudes from school and peer groups. Even young adults often encounter a barrier to marriage due merely to the fact that they were reared in single-parent families (Chang & Min, 2002). These economic and cultural conditions of children growing up with a single-parent in Korea lead to an expectation of the evident educational gap between students from single-parent and two-parent families.
4.3 The extended family system The welfare state, however, is not the only institution that affects economic conditions of single-parent families. In many societies, family and kin networks traditionally have played an important role in providing economic support to vulnerable family members.
Extended family members may also help single parents by pooling their time to supervise and monitor educational progress and other behaviors of the children of single parents.
Therefore, in order to understand the overall conditions of single parents and their children in a speciﬁc society, it is important to examine the extent of economic and social supports http://www.demographic-research.org 383 Park: Effects of single parenthood on educational aspiration and student disengagement in Korea from extended family and kin members as well as welfare provision by the state.
Inﬂuenced by Confucianism that regards family as the pivotal unit of society, Korea has traditionally maintained relatively strong family ties (Park & Cho, 1995). Although urbanization and industrialization have considerably weakened family ties in contemporary Korean society, the traditional family values still posit substantial inﬂuences on individuals’ behaviors. Studies show a substantial degree of private transfers among extended family members, especially toward those economically disadvantaged (Goh, Kang & Sawada, 2005). Although the share of multigenerational families among total family types has signiﬁcantly decreased over time, the most recent census shows that in 2005, still 14 percent of all children under age 18 live in multigenerational households consisting of three or more generations of parents and their children (KNSO, 2008).
Living arrangements with grandparents should be particularly important for children of single parents. The KEEP data reveal that in Korea, about 9 percent of middle school and high school seniors who live with two parents have at least one grandparent in the same household. The percentage is much higher among children of a single father: a third of children living with a divorced father have at least one grandparent present, while a ﬁfth of children who live with a widowed father do so. The ﬁgures can be compared to the fact that 11 percent of American children under age 18 who live with a single father have at least one grandparent present in household (Fields 2003). Considering that co-residence with grandparents tends to increase among families with younger children, the prevalence of co-residence with grandparents among middle school and high school seniors who live with a single father in the United States should be even lower than 11 percent for all children under age 18. Having grandparents present may be signiﬁcant for well-being of children living with a single father, given that grandparents may provide emotional and social assistance to those children. Interestingly, however, among children who live with a single mother, the share of those with at least one grandparent in households seems similar between the two countries. Only 9 percent of middle school and high school seniors living with a single mother in Korea have at least one grandparent in households.
4.4 Post-divorce living arrangements in Korea Another interesting difference between Korea and some other Western countries is postdivorce living arrangements of children. Until the modiﬁcation of civil law in 1990, a right to custody was given primarily to fathers. Since the landmark change, divorcing couples negotiate custody arrangements or are subject to juridical judgments in the case of dispute, which has resulted in the growing number of maternal custody arrangements.
However, because of a strong patriarchal culture in Korean societies where family succession through patrilineage is highly valued, the incidence of paternal custody is still substantial in comparisons to the United States and some European countries where chilhttp://www.demographic-research.org Demographic Research: Volume 18, Article 13 dren are much more likely to live with their mother than father after parental divorce (Kim et al. 2005). A national survey of fertility in Korea shows that in 2003, almost half of children of divorced couples lived with their father (Kim et al. 2005), while in the United States, only 17 percent of children whose parents were divorced lived with their father (Saluter and Lugaila 1998). A study of Dutch family showed that 17 percent of students from primary and secondary schools lived with their father after parental divorce (Borgers et al., 1996).
The substantial proportion of children living with a single father after parental divorce has an important implication for understanding children’s well-being in single-parent families in Korea. A study in the Netherlands found few important differences in several outcomes of education between children living with a divorced single father and children living with two parents. Although fairly small in the magnitude, educational outcomes of children living with a divorced single mother were generally poorer than those of children living with two parents (Borgers et al., 1996). Some studies in the United States showed no signiﬁcant differences in indicators of well-being between children living with a divorced single father and children living with a divorced single mother (Downey et al., 1998; Amato 1993). In other words, studies in Western countries generally ﬁnd that children living with a divorced single father fare better or at least are not worse off than children living with a divorced mother. The ﬁnding, however, may reﬂect selectivity. In the context where most children happen to live with their mother after parental divorce, single fathers who have custody may be a selective population in regard to their commitment to parenting and other socioeconomic characteristics, which may reduce the negative consequences of living with a single parent (Borgers et al., 1996).
In the Korean context where prevalence of parental custody is much substantial, the selectivity associated with custodial fathers may not play a role as much as it does in the context where paternal custody is relatively rare. In contrast, Korean single mothers who get custody may be more selective in their characteristics than single mothers in the Western context, given that maternal custody in Korea is not as predominant as maternal custody in Western countries. In sum, the distinctive feature of post-divorce arrangements in Korea should be taken into account when children’s well-being is compared across different types of single-parent families.
Literature has highlighted the importance of maintaining positive parent-child relationship after parental divorce for children’s well-being. For instance, positive interaction with the child and involvement of non-resident father is often found to be associated with children’s better development outcomes (Marsiglio, Amato, & Day, 2000). Although there is no systematic, larger-scale research yet, some limited evidence suggests that divorced couples in Korea usually do not want their children to meet their ex-spouse and a divorced parent who does not live with children sees rarely her or his children (Byun 1996). Also note that joint custody virtually does not exist in Korea. If positive relation
ships with a non-resident parent may help children deal with parental divorce, children of divorced parents in Korea are signiﬁcantly disadvantaged with limited contacts with a non-resident parent.
5. Data and methods Data The data for this study come from a national representative survey, the Korean Education and Employment Panel (KEEP), conducted by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) in 2004. The stratiﬁed cluster sampling method was used to select respondents: regions were ﬁrst stratiﬁed, schools were selected within each region in proportion to the number of students residing in the region, and ﬁnally students were sampled within each school.3 The sampling was conducted separately for each group of the targeted population: middle school seniors (9th graders), academic high school seniors (12th graders), and vocational high school seniors (12th graders), as of 2004, yielding the ﬁnal sample of 2,000 students for each group (i.e., a total of 6,000 students). Among total 6,000 respondents in KEEP, 262 respondents did not report living arrangement or/and the reason for not living together with a parent and thus their family types could not be identiﬁed.
To better understand the targeted populations, brief information on educational structure in Korea is in order. After six years of compulsory primary education and three years of compulsory lower secondary education in middle school, students proceed to either academic high schools or vocational high schools, mostly depending on their grades and needs. Compared to US secondary schools where students take different courses within schools, students in Korea are separated into academic or vocational high schools. Academic high schools prepare students for post-secondary education, while vocational high schools focus on occupational training for students who enter job markets after graduation. Given the importance of college degrees for life chances in Korea, academic high schools are perceived as more prestigious than are vocational high schools (Park, 2004).