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

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  • David Blau

    ()

  • Wilbert Klaauw

Abstract

This paper provides a comprehensive demographic analysis of the family structure experiences of children in the U.S. Childbearing and transitions among co-residential union states defined by single, cohabiting, and married are analyzed jointly. A novel contribution is to distinguish men by their relationship to children: biological father or stepfather. This distinction is rarely made when analyzing union formation, but it is critical for understanding the family structure experiences of children. The analysis uses data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79). The results are used to address the following issues: (1) What fraction of their childhood do children spend with the biological father, stepfathers, and no father? (2) How do these fractions vary by the mother’s marital status at the time of the child’s birth and at the time of the child’s conception? (3) How do the family structure experiences of the children of white, black, and Hispanic mothers differ, and what are the proximate demographic determinants of these differences? A key finding is that children of black mothers spend on average only 34.1% of their childhood living with the biological father and mother, compared to 72.8% for whites and 64.1% for Hispanics. The two most important proximate demographic determinants of this 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 and Hispanics. Another notable finding is that cohabitation plays a negligible role in the family structure experiences of children of white and Hispanic mothers, and even for children of black mothers accounts for only one fifth of time spent living with both biological parents. Finally, we find that children of black, Hispanic, and white mothers spend similar proportions of their lives with stepfathers present, but this similarity masks a much higher stepfather â€

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Review of Economics of the Household.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 193-221

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Handle: RePEc:kap:reveho:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:193-221

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=109451

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Keywords: Family structure; Children; Marriage; Cohabitation; J10;

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References

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  1. Deborah Roempke Graefe & Daniel Lichter, 1999. "Life course transitions of American children: Parental cohabitation, marriage, and single motherhood," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 205-217, May.
  2. Blau, David M. & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2007. "A Demographic Analysis of the Family Structure Experiences of Children in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 3001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," NBER Working Papers 12944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lillard, Lee A., 1993. "Simultaneous equations for hazards : Marriage duration and fertility timing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1-2), pages 189-217, March.
  5. Marcia Carlson & Sara Mclanahan & Paula England, 2004. "Union formation in fragile families," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 237-261, May.
  6. Wei-Jun J. Yeung & Greg J. Duncan & Martha S. Hill, 2001. "Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 271-299.
  7. Michael J. Brien & Lee A. Hillard & Linda Waite, . "Cohabitation, Marriage, and Non-Fertility," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 97-5, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  8. Kevin Lang & Jay L. Zagorsky, 2001. "Does Growing up with a Parent Absent Really Hurt?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 253-273.
  9. Patrick Heuveline & Jeffrey M. Timberlake & Frank F. Furstenberg, 2003. "Shifting Childrearing to Single Mothers: Results from 17 Western Countries," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 29(1), pages 47-71.
  10. Andrew Cherlin, 1999. "Going to extremes: Family structure, children’s well-being, and social science," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 421-428, November.
  11. Wendy Sigle-Rushton & John Hobcraft & Kathleen Kiernan, 2005. "Parental divorce and subsequent disadvantage: A cross-cohort comparison," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 427-446, August.
  12. Gunnar Andersson, 2002. "Children's experience of family disruption and family formation: Evidence from 16 FFS countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 7(7), pages 343-364, August.
  13. Larry Bumpass & R. Raley & James Sweet, 1995. "The changing character of stepfamilies: implications of cohabitation and nonmarital childbearing," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 425-436, August.
  14. R. Raley, 2001. "Increasing fertility in cohabiting unions: evidence for the second demographic transition in the united states?," Demography, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 59-66, February.
  15. Lisa Gennetian, 2005. "One or two parents? Half or step siblings? The effect of family structure on young children's achievement," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 415-436, 09.
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Cited by:
  1. DAVID M. BLAU & WILBERT van der KLAAUW, 2013. "What Determines Family Structure?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 579-604, 01.
  2. David Blau & Wilbert Klaauw, 2008. "A demographic analysis of the family structure experiences of children in the United States," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 193-221, September.

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