, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 247-264

Marriage markets and nonmarital fertility in the United States

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Abstract

We merge census microdata with vital statistics data to examine the effect of women’s marriage opportunities on nonmarital fertility rates and ratios across 75 U.S. metropolitan areas. Measures of the quantity and “quality” of marriageable men simultaneously specific for women’s age, race, education, and place of residence reveal especially poor marriage prospects for highly educated black women. The effect of mate availability on nonmarital fertility is generally modest. Among white women, marriage opportunities are associated inversely with the nonmarital fertility rate, perhaps reflecting an increased likelihood that a premarital conception will be legitimated. Marriage opportunities also reduce nonmarital fertility ratios for young black and white women. The nonmarital fertility rate is lower among women whose marriage pool includes a large percentage of nonemployed males. Only a small proportion of the racial difference in nonmarital fertility appears attributable to differences in the marriage markets of black and of white women.

This research was supported by Grant SES8820743 from the National Science Foundation. We thank Stewart Tolnay, Katherine Trent, and several anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.