Racial Differences in Transitions to Marriage for Unmarried Mothers
Unlike prior studies that have explained racial differences in the transitions to marriage among unmarried women, our study used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine racial differences in the transitions to marriage among unmarried women following a non-marital birth. We found that Black mothers were 60–65% more likely to delay marriage after a non-marital birth compared to White mothers and these racial gaps were only partially explained by economic, demographic and attitudinal factors. Our paper further contributes to this literature by examining changes in cohabitation patterns, educational attainment, poverty status and attitudes of gender distrust that are able to partially explain and reduce these racial gaps in transitions to marriage. With the general decline in marriage and rise in cohabitation, our paper tried to assess whether cohabitation is a leading factor for marriage or a substitute for marriage for unmarried mothers. Racial disparities have important implications for child wellbeing and intergenerational transmission of inequalities.
KeywordsFragile Families Marriage Race Cohabitation Education Hazard models Attitudes towards marriage
We thank participants of the First Formal Demography workshop 2015 at UC Berkeley Campus which was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) R25HD083136 and co-sponsored by the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging (CEDA) and the Berkeley Population Center. We are grateful to Shelly Lundberg and Robert Chung for their invaluable comments. We also thank the participants of the 2016 Annual meeting of the Population Association of America. Fellowship support from Howard University is greatly acknowledged. The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study is generously supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD through Grants R01HD36916, R01HD39135, and R01HD40421, as well as a consortium of private foundations and government agencies.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Dr. Gerald Eric Daniels Jr., Dr. Venoo Kakar and Dr. Anoshua Chaudhuri declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
- Anderson, E. (2013). Streetwise: Race, class, and change in an urban community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- (1981). A treatise on the family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Child Trends Databank (2015). Births to Unmarried Women: Indicators on Children and Youth. Technical report.Google Scholar
- Cox, D. R. (1972). Regression models and life-tables. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B, 34(2), 187–220. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2985181.Google Scholar
- Edin, K., England, P., & Linnenberg, K. (2003). Love and distrust among unmarried parents. In Presentation at the National Poverty Center Conference, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Edin, K., & Nelson, T. J. (2013). Doing the best I can. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Manning, W. D., Smock, P. J., Dorius, C., Cooksey, E., Hernandez, D., & Mitchell, K. S. (2012). Cohabitation and marital expectations in young adulthood. In IUSSP Meeting of the International Seminar on First Union Patterns Around the World, Madrid, Spain. Working Paper.Google Scholar
- McLanahan, S. & Casper, L. (1995). Growing diversity and inequality in the american family. State of the Union: America in the 1990s, 2, 1–46. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610441971.Google Scholar
- McLanahan, S., & Sandefur, G. (1996). Growing up with a single parent. What hurts, what helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Mincy, R. B. (2002). Who should marry whom? multiple partner fertility among new parents. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, (964). Working Paper WP02-03-FF.Google Scholar
- Osborne, C. (2004). Maternal stress and mothering behaviors in stable and unstable families. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, (951). Working Paper WP03-08-FF.Google Scholar
- (1998). Rituals of blood: Consequences of slavery in two American centuries. New York: Basic Civitas Books.Google Scholar
- Raley, R. K., Sweeney, M. M., & Wondra, D. (2015). The growing racial and ethnic divide in us marriage patterns. The Future of children/Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 25(2), 89. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43581974.Google Scholar
- Solomon-Fears, C. (2011). Non-marital childbearing: Trends, reasons, and public policy interventions. Collingdale: Diane Publishing.Google Scholar
- Spain, D. & Bianchi, S. (1996). Balancing act: Motherhood, marriage, and employment among American women. Russell Sage Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610445115.Google Scholar
- Teitler, J., Reichman, N., et al. (2007). Mental illness as a barrier to marriage among mothers with out-of-wedlock births. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, (907). Working Paper WP07-01-FF.Google Scholar
- Testa, M., Astone, N. M., Krogh, M., & Neckerman, K. M. (1989). Employment and marriage among inner-city fathers. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 501, 79–91. Retrieved from URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1045650.Google Scholar
- Usdansky, M. & McLanahan, S. (2003). Looking for murphy brown: Are college-educated, single mothers unique? Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, (957). Working Papers WP03-05-FF.Google Scholar
- Wilson, W. J. (2011). When work disappears: The world of the new urban poor. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar