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Family Structure and Wellbeing of Out-of-Wedlock Children: The Significance of the Biological Parents' Relationship


Author Info

  • Frank Heiland

    (Department of Economics and Center of Demography and Population Health, Florida State University)

  • Shirley H. Liu

    (Department of Economics, University of Miami)


This study examines the effects of the relationship structure between biological parents on infant health and behavior using a sample of children born to unmarried parents in the United States. Using descriptive and multivariate analysis, we find that: (1) There is no difference in child wellbeing measured at age one between children whose biological parents marry within the first year after childbirth, and children whose biological parents remain in a cohabiting union; (2) The relationship structure of the biological parents matters most at childbirth with children born to cohabiting biological parents realizing better outcomes, on average, than those born to mothers who are less involved with the child’s father; and (3) Children born to cohabiting or visiting parents who end their relationship within the first year of the child’s life are up to 9 percent more likely to have asthma compared to children of continuously cohabiting, continuously visiting, cohabiting-at-birth or visiting at-birth and married-subsequently biological parents.

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File Function: Revised version, 2006
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Miami, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 0612.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: 30 Oct 2005
Date of revision: Sep 2006
Publication status: Published in Demographic Research, Vol. 15, Article 4, pages 61 - 104
Handle: RePEc:mia:wpaper:0612

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Related research

Keywords: Marriage; Cohabitation; Infant Wellbeing; Fragile Families; Child Asthma;

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  1. Thomas Deleire & Ariel Kalil, 2002. "Good things come in threes: Single-parent multigenerational family structure and adolescent adjustment," Demography, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 393-413, May.
  2. Anne Winkler, 1997. "Economic decision-making by cohabitors: findings regarding income pooling," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(8), pages 1079-1090.
  3. Björklund, Anders & Ginther, Donna K. & Sundström, Marianne, 2004. "Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 1259, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Ribar, David C., 2004. "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies," IZA Discussion Papers 998, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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Cited by:
  1. Sar, Bibhuti K. & Antle, Becky F. & Bledsoe, Linda K. & Barbee, Anita P. & Van Zyl, Michiel A., 2010. "The importance of expanding home visitation services to include strengthening family relationships for the benefit of children," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 198-205, February.
  2. Shirley H. Liu & Frank Heiland, 2012. "Should We Get Married? The Effect Of Parents' Marriage On Out‐Of‐Wedlock Children," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(1), pages 17-38, 01.
  3. Frans Poppel & Niels Schenk & Ruben Gaalen, 2013. "Demographic Transitions and Changes in the Living Arrangements of Children: The Netherlands 1850–2010," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 243-260, April.


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