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Pathways of Early Fatherhood, Marriage, and Employment: A Latent Class Growth Analysis

Abstract

In the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), young fathers include heterogeneous subgroups with varying early life pathways in terms of fatherhood timing, the timing of first marriage, and holding full-time employment. Using latent class growth analysis with 10 observations between ages 18 and 37, we derived five latent classes with median ages of first fatherhood below the cohort median (26.4), constituting distinct early fatherhood pathways representing 32.4% of NLSY men: (A) Young Married Fathers, (B) Teen Married Fathers, (C) Young Underemployed Married Fathers, (D) Young Underemployed Single Fathers, and (E) Young Later-Marrying Fathers. A sixth latent class of men who become fathers around the cohort median, following full-time employment and marriage (On-Time On-Sequence Fathers), is the comparison group. With sociodemographic background controlled, all early fatherhood pathways show disadvantage in at least some later-life circumstances (earnings, educational attainment, marital status, and incarceration). The extent of disadvantage is greater when early fatherhood occurs at relatively younger ages (before age 20), occurs outside marriage, or occurs outside full-time employment. The relative disadvantage associated with early fatherhood, unlike early motherhood, increases over the life course.

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Notes

  1. This term is used by NLSY79 even though the sample is longitudinal. It is used to distinguish these respondents from the military and poverty supplementary samples.

  2. We did not take into account infant mortality, so any man whose only child died retained a code of 1.

  3. Screening and entrance into the study began in 1978 and extended into 1979. Some youth reported about current poverty in 1978, while others reported about it in 1979. Youth were ages 15–19 when reporting about poverty.

  4. Very few men reported being incarcerated for the first time after age 26, and the number of men incarcerated between ages 27 and 37 was too small for statistical analyses. Hence, we limit our analyses to incarceration prior to and including age 26.

  5. For earnings and earnings per child in dollars at ages 26 and 37, both dollars and log-dollars were modeled. Analyses determined that log-dollars models did not fit the data significantly better than dollars models. For ease of interpretation, only the dollars models are presented in Tables 5 and 6.

  6. Part of the increases between ages 26 and 37 owe to inflation over the 11-year period.

  7. It is possible that in later years when women’s children are all grown, economic differences between young mothers and on-time older mothers will reemerge as a result of lower levels of human capital acquisition among young mothers.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health – NICHD: PO1 HDD45610-03. Part of the work reported here was also supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Project No. ILLU-45-0366 to Joseph H. Pleck. The authors pay special thanks to Stephanie Lanza for her methodological wisdom and invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of the paper.

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Correspondence to Jacinda K. Dariotis.

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Dariotis, J.K., Pleck, J.H., Astone, N.M. et al. Pathways of Early Fatherhood, Marriage, and Employment: A Latent Class Growth Analysis. Demography 48, 593 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-011-0022-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-011-0022-7

Keywords

  • Early fatherhood
  • Young fathers
  • Men’s employment
  • Marriage