Out of Wedlock

Out of Wedlock: Causes and Consequences of Nonmarital Fertility

Lawrence L. Wu
Barbara Wolfe
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 444
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  • Book Info
    Out of Wedlock
    Book Description:

    Today, one third of all American babies are born to unmarried mothers—a startling statistic that has prompted national concern about the consequences for women, children, and society. Indeed, the debate about welfare and the overhaul of the federal welfare program for single mothers was partially motivated by the desire to reduce out of wedlock births. Although the proportion of births to unwed mothers has stopped climbing for the first time since the 1960s, it has not decreased, and recent trends are too complex to attribute solely to policy interventions. What are these trends and how do they differ across groups? Are they peculiar to the United States, or rooted in more widespread social forces? Do children of unmarried mothers face greater life challenges, and if so what can be done to help them? Out of Wedlock investigates these questions, marshalling sociologists, demographers, and economists to review the state of current research and to provide both empirical information and critical analyses. The conflicting data on nonmarital fertility give rise to a host of vexing theoretical, methodological, and empirical issues, some of which researchers are only beginning to address. Out of Wedlock breaks important new ground, bringing clarity to the data and examining policies that may benefit these particularly vulnerable children.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-560-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxxii)

    Nonmarital fertility, with its consequences for women, children, and social institutions such as marriage and the family, has increasingly captured the attention of researchers, policymakers, and the public. Heated debate on the subject in the mid-1990s (Whitehead 1993) culminated in the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), one goal of which was to achieve reductions in nonmarital childbearing. To this end, the federal government now awards $100 million annually to the five states with the largest reductions in the proportion of births outside of marriage.

    There has been both good and bad news since passage of the...

    • CHAPTER 1 Historical and Life Course Trajectories of Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 3-48)
      Lawrence L. Wu, Larry L. Bumpass and Kelly Musick

      Cohabitation and nonmarital fertility are profoundly transforming the family experiences of both children and parents (Smith, Morgan, and Koropeckyj-Cox 1996; Bumpass and Raley 1995; Bumpass, Raley, and Sweet 1995). Approximately half of all children spend some time in a Single-parent family while growing up, yet roughly two-fifths of such families are begun by anunmarriedbirth (Bumpass and Raley 1995; Bumpass and Sweet 1989). A substantial minority of Single-parent families are thus begun by the childbearing of Single women or cohabiting couples. Social scientists and policymakers alike have been slow to grapple with the possibility that many of the difficulties...

    • CHAPTER 2 Differences in Nonmarital Childbearing Across States
      (pp. 49-76)
      Kelleen Kaye

      The rising share of births that occur outside of marriage has received a great deal of attention from policymakers, researchers, and the media. This attention stems from a variety of concerns, including those stemming from findings that children born outside of marriage are more likely to be in poverty, more likely to be on public assistance, and more likely to become pregnant as teens (U.S. House of Representatives 1996). The health status of unmarried women and their babies is also generally less favorable. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) states that “unmarried mothers are less apt to receive adequate...

    • CHAPTER 3 European Perspectives on Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 77-108)
      Kathleen Kiernan

      Across Europe more and more children are being born outside first marriage, the conventional locus for the transition to parenthood. This chapter examines this development for Western European nations using mainly data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) European Fertility and Family Surveys (FFS).

      I commence with an overview, based on vital registration data, of the level of nonmarital childbearing across Western European nations and changes in this level over the last two decades. The in-depth analysis is confined to nine countries that encompass nations with somewhat different cultural and demographic regimes. For these nations, I examine...

    • CHAPTER 4 Cohabitation and Childbearing Outside Marriage in Britain
      (pp. 109-140)
      John Ermisch

      There has been a dramatic rise in the percentage of births in England and Wales that occur outside marriage, from 9 percent in 1975 to 37 percent in 1997, with the upward trend becoming steeper after 1980 (see figure 4.1; Babb and Bethune 1995). Many other Western countries have also seen large increases in this percentage from 1975 to 1995, but England and Wales rank among those with the largest increases (Kiernan, this volume, figure 3.1). In particular, Britain’s rate of increase in nonmarital births exceeds that in the United States (see Kaye, this volume).

      Out-of-wedlock births may occur in...

    • CHAPTER 5 Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series
      (pp. 143-172)
      Robert A. Moffitt

      Whether welfare benefits affect the marriage and fertility decisions of the low-income population has been the subject of much research. The substantial bias in the U.S. welfare system toward female-headed families, relative to either married couples or single, childless individuals, provides a clear financial incentive for behavior that makes eligibility for welfare benefits more likely or that avoids the loss of eligibility after it has been achieved, such as early nonmarital childbearing, postponement of marriage, divorce, and postponement of remarriage.

      Elsewhere (Moffitt 1998) I have summarized the research literature through 1995. The existing literature typically uses individual data on women...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Young and the Not Quite So Young: Age Variation in the Impact of AFDC Benefits on Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 173-201)
      E. Michael Foster and Saul D. Hoffman

      Discussions of nonmarital childbearing almost inevitably focus on teenagers. It is well known that, despite its recent decline, the teen birth rate in the United States is conspicuously high relative to other developed countries. Moreover, the problems of teen child-bearers are well documented (Maynard 1997), although the independent contribution of teen childbearing itself is in some doubt (Geronimus and Korenman 1992; Hoffman, Foster, and Furstenberg 1993; Hotz, McElroy, and Sanders 1997; Hoffman 1998).

      Nonetheless, this heavy emphasis on teen childbearing is somewhat misplaced. Recent reports document the growing importance of women ages twenty and older among nonmarital child-bearers. Several statistics...

    • CHAPTER 7 Unwed Parents or Fragile Families? Implications for Welfare and Child Support Policy
      (pp. 202-228)
      Sara McLanahan, Irwin Garfinkel, Nancy E. Reichman and Julien O. Teitler

      Nearly one-third of all births in the United States today occur outside marriage, up from 6 percent in the early 1960s (Ventura et al. 1995). The proportions are even higher among poor and minority populations—40 percent among Hispanics and 70 percent among African Americans. Nonmarital childbearing also is increasing throughout the western European countries. Indeed, the rate of nonmarital births is higher in the Scandinavian countries (and France) than it is in the United States (Ventura et al. 1995). The United States is different from these other countries, however, in one important respect. Whereas in Europe the overwhelming majority...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Changing Role of Child Support Among Never-Married Mothers
      (pp. 229-256)
      Judi Bartfeld and Daniel R. Meyer

      The prevalence and economic hardship of Single-parent families are major topics of concern. About half of all children are predicted to spend some time in a Single-parent family (Bumpass and Raley 1995). This is particularly troubling because of the economic vulnerability of these families: over 40 percent of mother-only families fall below the official poverty line (Dalaker and Naifeh 1998). Economic hardship is especially pronounced among families headed by a never-married mother: for example, mean family income of never-married mothers is half that of previously married mothers, while the poverty rate among never-married mothers is twice that of previously married...

    • CHAPTER 9 Unintended Pregnancy and the Consequences of Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 259-286)
      Sanders Korenman, Robert Kaestner and Theodore J. Joyce

      The consequences of nonmarital childbearing and unintended childbearing are thought to be substantial, as clearly illustrated by the conclusions of two major reports quoted in the epigraphs. Despite this similarity in research findings and the fact that nonmarital births are far more likely to be unintended than marital births, analyses of the consequences of unintended childbearing and nonmarital childbearing remain largely distinct.¹ In this chapter, we incorporate information on pregnancy intention into the study of the consequences of nonmarital childbearing for infant health and child development.

      By now it is widely recognized that estimates of the effects of nonmarital births...

    • CHAPTER 10 Intergenerational Effects of Nonmarital and Early Childbearing
      (pp. 287-316)
      Robert Haveman, Barbara Wolfe and Karen Pence

      Concurrent with the upward trend in the average age at which women experience their first birth is the seemingly perverse increasing trend in the birth rate among unmarried women. This nonmarital birth rate (the number of nonmarital births per 1,000 unmarried women) increased from 29.4 in 1980 to 46.9 in 1994, declining slightly to 44.8 by 1996.¹ As a share of all births, births to unmarried women rose from 18.4 percent in 1980 to nearly one-third (32.4 percent) in 1996. In that year, nonmarital births accounted for more than one-quarter of births to white women, nearly 70 percent of births...

    • CHAPTER 11 Finding a Mate? The Marital and Cohabitation Histories of Unwed Mothers
      (pp. 317-343)
      Daniel T. Lichter and Deborah Roempke Graefe

      A voluminous literature documents the correlates and consequences of transitions to first marriage among American women and men (see, for example, Goldscheider and Waite 1986; Lichter, LeClere, and McLaughlin 1991; Oppenheimer 1994). Marriage is linked with adult economic, physical, and psychological well-being, especially for men (Waite 1995; Nock 1998). For women, the transition to marriage is associated with exits from poverty, while marital disruption has negative economic consequences for women and children (Holden and Smock 1991; Peterson 1996; Haveman, Wolfe, and Pence, this volume). For the most part, studies of unwed teen motherhood center on its short-and long-term economic consequences...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Impact of Nonmarital Childbearing on Subsequent Marital Formation and Dissolution
      (pp. 344-380)
      Dawn M. Upchurch, Lee A. Lillard and Constantijn W. A. Panis

      Economic and social theories point to the detrimental influences of nonmarital childbearing on marriage formation and stability (Becker 1973; Becker, Landes, and Michael 1977; Morgan, Lye, and Condran 1988), and recent empirical findings support these perspectives (for example, Bennett, Bloom, and Craig 1989; Bennett, Bloom, and Miller 1995; Martin and Bumpass 1989). Explanations for the reduced likelihood of marriage among women with nonmarital children propose that these children may be viewed as economic and psychic burdens to a future spouse and that they may also hinder the search process for the woman (Bennett, Bloom, and Miller 1995; Lichter and Graefe,...

    • CHAPTER 13 Nonmarital Fertility: Lessons for Family Economics
      (pp. 383-389)
      Shelly Lundberg

      The chapters of this book provide a wealth of information on the correlates of, and changes in, nonmarital childbearing in the United States and Europe. A number of methodological advances have been made, and some progress in sorting out causal relationships from selection is evident. Several disciplinary perspectives are represented, and the studies use many different sources of data—some familiar and some unfamiliar to the average researcher in this area. What have we learned? The studies based on U.S. data focus on the causes and effects of nonmarital fertility, and a few general observations can sum up most of...

    • CHAPTER 14 New Developments in the Study of Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 390-402)
      Andrew J. Cherlin

      This volume on nonmarital fertility marks a transition in the demographic and economic analyses of childbearing outside of marriage. It brings together three research domains that, until recently, have existed more or less independently but can no longer remain so: union formation and dissolution; adolescent fertility; and welfare policy. All are concerned with nonmarital fertility, but most researchers in these traditions have stayed within the boundaries of their subfield. The sheer fact of bringing them together is significant. Whether the three will coalesce into a coherent research domain remains to be seen, but the editors of this volume clearly believe...

  10. Index
    (pp. 403-412)