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Demography

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Multiple-Partner Fertility and Cohort Change in the Prevalence of Half-Siblings

  • Mariana AmorimEmail author
  • Laura M. Tach
Article

Abstract

The transformation of the American family under the second demographic transition has created more opportunities for parents to have children with multiple partners, but data limitations have hampered prevalence estimates of multiple-partner fertility from the perspective of children. This study uses nationally representative data from the 1979 and 1997 cohorts of the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth to examine cohort change in children’s exposure to multiple-partner fertility. We find that one in five children in the 1979 cohort had at least one half-sibling by their 18th birthday, and the prevalence grew to more than one in four children by the 1997 cohort. A strong educational gradient in exposure to half-siblings persists across both cohorts, but large racial/ethnic disparities have narrowed over time. Using demographic decomposition techniques, we find that change in the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic composition of the U.S. population cannot explain the growth in exposure to half-siblings. We conclude by discussing the shifting patterns of fertility and family formation associated with sibling complexity and considering the implications for child development and social stratification.

Keywords

Family structure Fertility Children and youth Demographic change 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Kelly Musick, Vida Maralani, Megan Sweeney, Elizabeth Wildsmith, and anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful feedback on earlier versions of this article. This work was supported by the William T. Grant Foundation.

Supplementary material

13524_2019_820_MOESM1_ESM.docx (50 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 50 kb)

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Policy Analysis and ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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