Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 279–292 | Cite as

Marital Biography and Mothers’ Wealth

  • Adrianne Frech
  • Matthew Painter
  • Jonathan Vespa
Original Paper


We used over 20 years of data to estimate differences in mothers’ wealth across marital biography, following a marital first birth. Our study is the first to account for the selection of mothers into divorce or remarriage when estimating the role that marital history plays in wealth accumulation. Mothers who remained stably married to the biological father of their firstborn child reported greater wealth in their forties than mothers who divorced and did not remarry. Those who married at younger ages, women of color, and women from lower-income families were less likely to remain stably married. Net of selection, mothers who remained remarried had the same wealth as continuously married mothers. Thus the characteristics that predispose mothers to divorce, and not divorce per se, are linked to lower wealth. Once these selection effects were accounted for, we concluded that divorce was not necessarily detrimental to mothers’ economic security, a new finding that contradicts past studies.


Divorce Marriage Remarriage Wealth 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrianne Frech
    • 1
  • Matthew Painter
    • 2
  • Jonathan Vespa
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe University of AkronAkronUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyThe University of WyomingLaramieUSA
  3. 3.US Census BureauFertility and Family Statistics BranchWashingtonUSA

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