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New NBER research estimates effects of drug crisis on children’s living arrangements

A paper published through the National Bureau of Economic Research uses an innovative methodology to estimate the number of children whose living arrangements have been disrupted by parental drug use. Using cause-of-death data, the authors calculate a cumulative drug-related death rate for children’s likely parents as a proxy for exposure to the drug crisis. The authors find exposure is associated with increased chances that a child’s mother or father is absent and increased chances that a child lives with a grandparent. These results are robust even after considering inter-state policy variations, community context factors, economic conditions, and other possibly influential factors, and accounts for the possibility of a reverse relationship (e.g., that separation from a child could increase parental drug use). The authors conclude that by 2015, 1.5 million children under age 16 were living away from their mother or father because of the drug crisis.