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For Richer or Poorer?

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  • Wendy Sigle-Rushton
  • Sara McLanahan
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    Abstract

    With welfare reauthorization imminent, many conservative politicians are suggesting that although states have been successful at moving welfare mothers into paid employment, they have paid too little attention to the second goal of welfare reform - encouraging the formation of two-parent families. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we compare the characteristics and earnings capacities of married and unmarried parents and explore the extent to which marriage to their babies' fathers would lift unwed mothers out of poverty. We find that unmarried parents are vastly different from married parents when it comes to age, education, health status and behavior, employment, and wage rates. These differences translate into important differences in earnings capacities, which, in turn, translate into differences in poverty. Proponents of marriage are overstating its benefits when they compare the median earnings or poverty rates of single mother families to those of married, two-parent families. Assuming the same family structure, labor supply, and wage schedule, our estimates, suggest that much of that difference can be attributed to factors other than marital status.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 264.

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    Date of creation: 08 Jan 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:264

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    1. Scott South & Kim Lloyd, 1992. "Marriage markets and nonmarital fertility in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 247-264, May.
    2. Daniel, K., 1991. "Does Marriage Make Men More Productive?," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-2, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    3. David Neumark & Sanders D. Korenman, 1988. "Does marriage really make men more productive?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Cited by:
    1. Shanta Pandey & Jeoung-hee Kim, 2008. "Path to Poverty Alleviation: Marriage or Postsecondary Education?," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 166-184, March.
    2. Kristen Harknett, 2009. "Why are Children with Married Parents Healthier? The Case of Pediatric Asthma," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 347-365, June.

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