Date: 15 Nov 2011

Childbearing Among Cohabiting Women: Race, Pregnancy, and Union Transitions

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Abstract

The current economic downturn – a coda on the slow economic growth period of the 2000s – has prompted new questions about the current state of America’s families, including its fragile families. This chapter argues that the issues and policy raised by the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) are more important than ever. America’s rapidly changing ethnoracial composition is giving demographic impetus to new fragile families. Newly released data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth now show that nearly 60% of nonmarital births are to unmarried couples living together. Nonmarital births to cohabiting couples are overrepresented among historically disadvantaged populations. Finally, previous research from the FFCWS typically emphasizes the prospective transitions of new mothers among singlehood, cohabitation, and marriage over successive survey waves. This chapter provides new estimates of the incidence of relationship transitions among pregnant women, i.e., evidence on how nonmarital pregnancies segue into cohabitation and marriage. The past decade has brought significant growth in “shot-gun cohabitations” – the so-called fragile families – and a continuing movement away from “shot-gun marriages.”