Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 370–389 | Cite as

Racial Differences in Transitions to Marriage for Unmarried Mothers

  • Gerald Eric DanielsJr
  • Venoo Kakar
  • Anoshua Chaudhuri
Original Paper


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.


Fragile 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.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsHoward UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

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