Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 193–221 | Cite as

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

  • David M. BlauEmail author
  • Wilbert van der Klaauw


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




Financial support from NICHD grant HD45587 is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks to Karin Gleiter for expert programming. A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia, and in seminars at the Carolina Population Center, Cornell, Syracuse, NYU, and the 2005 NIH Workshop on Intergenerational Family Resource Allocation. We are grateful for comments by the editor, referees, and seminar and conference participants. The authors alone are responsible for the contents. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Initiative in Population ResearchThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Federal Reserve Bank of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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