Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 193–221

A demographic analysis of the family structure experiences of children in the United States


    • Department of Economics and Initiative in Population ResearchThe Ohio State University
  • Wilbert van der Klaauw
    • Federal Reserve Bank of New York

DOI: 10.1007/s11150-008-9030-9

Cite this article as:
Blau, D.M. & van der Klaauw, W. Rev Econ Household (2008) 6: 193. doi:10.1007/s11150-008-9030-9


This paper analyzes the family structure experiences of children in the U.S. Childbearing and transitions among single, cohabiting, and married states are analyzed jointly. A novel contribution is to distinguish men by their relationship to children: biological father or stepfather. The analysis uses data from the NLSY79. A key finding is that children of black mothers spend on average only 33% of their childhood living with the biological father and mother, compared to 74% for children of white mothers. The two most important proximate demographic determinants of the large racial gap are the much higher propensity of black women to conceive children outside of a union, and the lower rate of “shotgun” unions for blacks compared to whites. Another notable finding is that cohabitation plays a negligible role in the family structure experiences of children of white mothers, and even for children of black mothers accounts for less than one fifth of time spent living with both biological parents.


Family structure Children Marriage Cohabitation

JEL Classification


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008