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Cohort Trends in Premarital First Births: What Role for the Retreat From Marriage?

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  • Paula England

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  • Lawrence Wu

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  • Emily Shafer

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    Abstract

    We examine cohort trends in premarital first births for U.S. women born between 1920 and 1964. The rise in premarital first births is often argued to be a consequence of the retreat from marriage, with later ages at first marriage resulting in more years of exposure to the risk of a premarital first birth. However, cohort trends in premarital first births may also reflect trends in premarital sexual activity, premarital conceptions, and how premarital conceptions are resolved. We decompose observed cohort trends in premarital first births into components reflecting cohort trends in (1) the age-specific risk of a premarital conception taken to term; (2) the age-specific risk of first marriages not preceded by such a conception, which will influence women’s years of exposure to the risk of a premarital conception; and (3) whether a premarital conception is resolved by entering a first marriage before the resulting first birth (a “shotgun marriage”). For women born between 1920–1924 and 1945–1949, increases in premarital first births were primarily attributable to increases in premarital conceptions. For women born between 1945–1949 and 1960–1964, increases in premarital first births were primarily attributable to declines in responding to premarital conceptions by marrying before the birth. Trends in premarital first births were affected only modestly by the retreat from marriages not preceded by conceptions—a finding that holds for both whites and blacks. These results cast doubt on hypotheses concerning “marriageable” men and instead suggest that increases in premarital first births resulted initially from increases in premarital sex and then later from decreases in responding to a conception by marrying before a first birth. Copyright Population Association of America 2013

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Demography.

    Volume (Year): 50 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 6 (December)
    Pages: 2075-2104

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:6:p:2075-2104

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    Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/13524

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    Related research

    Keywords: Fertility; Nonmarital births; Marriage; Pregnancy;

    References

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    1. Valerie Oppenheimer & Matthijs Kalmijn & Nelson Lim, 1997. "Men’s career development and marriage timing during a period of rising inequality," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 311-330, August.
    2. Welch, Finis, 1990. "The Employment of Black Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S26-74, January.
    3. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
    4. Melissa Schettini Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2012. "Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States so High and Why Does it Matter?," NBER Working Papers 17965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Lawrence Wu, 2008. "Cohort estimates of nonmarital fertility for U.S. Women," Demography, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 193-207, February.
    6. Herbert Smith & S. Morgan & Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, 1996. "A decomposition of trends in the nonmarital fertility ratios of blacks and whites in the united states, 1960–1992," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 141-151, May.
    7. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Melissa Schettini Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2012. "Explaining Recent Trends in the U.S. Teen Birth Rate," NBER Working Papers 17964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert G. Wood, 1995. "Marriage Rates and Marriageable Men: A Test of the Wilson Hypothesis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 163-193.
    10. Herbert Smith & Phillips Cutright, 1988. "Thinking about change in illegitimacy ratios: United States, 1963–1983," Demography, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 235-247, May.
    11. Katz, Lawrence & Goldin, Claudia, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions," Scholarly Articles 2624453, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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