Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Health Insurance Mandates and the Marriage of Young Adults: A Comment on Barkowski and McLaughlin

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Abstract

Writing in the Journal of Human Resources, Scott Barkowski and Joanne Song McLaughlin (2022) explore the effect of government mandates regarding providing insurance for dependents (typically the spouse and children) on marriage rates among young adults. At the federal level, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dependent mandate increased the maximum age of an adult child dependent from 18 to 25. In addition, the majority of states enacted dependent mandates, which extended dependent status to children over the age of 18. State mandates commonly require that to be eligible the adult child be unmarried or a student. Barkowski and McLaughlin conclude that state and federal dependent health insurance mandates negatively impacted the likelihood of marriage among young adults. The conclusion is based on a model that omits necessary secondary interactions. In this comment, I describe the problem with their model, replicate the main findings, report results from a model that includes the proper secondary interactions, and assess the model’s effect on insurance outcomes. Corrected models yield small and statistically insignificant results, and the primary model employed in Barkowski and McLaughlin is unable to identify an impact on employer sponsored insurance coverage.

Response to this article by Scott Barkowski and Joanne Song McLaughlin: Response to Gamino (EJW, March 2023).