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The Compositional and Institutional Sources of Union Dissolution for Married and Unmarried Parents in the United States

  • Laura Tach

    ()

  • Kathryn Edin

    ()

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    Unmarried parents have less stable unions than married parents, but there is considerable debate over the sources of this instability. Unmarried parents may be more likely than married parents to end their unions because of compositional differences, such as more disadvantaged personal and relationship characteristics, or because they lack the normative and institutional supports of marriage, thus rendering their relationships more sensitive to disadvantage. In this article, we evaluate these two sources of union instability among married, cohabiting, and dating parents following the birth of a shared child, using five waves of longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Using discrete-time event history models, we find that demographic, economic, and relationship differences explain more than two-thirds of the increased risk of dissolution for unmarried parents relative to married parents. We also find that differential responses to economic or relationship disadvantage do not explain why unmarried parents are more likely to end their unions than married parents. Copyright Population Association of America 2013

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s13524-013-0203-7
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Demography.

    Volume (Year): 50 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 5 (October)
    Pages: 1789-1818

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:5:p:1789-1818
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/13524

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    1. Jay Teachman, 2002. "Stability across cohorts in divorce risk factors," Demography, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 331-351, May.
    2. Greg Duncan, 2008. "When to promote, and when to avoid, a population perspective," Demography, Springer, vol. 45(4), pages 763-784, November.
    3. Marcia Carlson & Sara Mclanahan & Paula England, 2004. "Union formation in fragile families," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 237-261, May.
    4. Tara Watson & Sara McLanahan, 2010. "Marriage Meets the Joneses: Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    5. William Axinn & Arland Thornton, 1992. "The relationship between cohabitation and divorce: Selectivity or causal influence?," Demography, Springer, vol. 29(3), pages 357-374, August.
    6. Daniel Lichter & Zhenchao Qian & Leanna Mellott, 2006. "Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 223-240, May.
    7. Pamela Smock & Wendy Manning, 1997. "Cohabiting partners’ economic circumstances and marriage," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 331-341, August.
    8. Laura Tach & Ronald Mincy & Kathryn Edin, 2010. "Parenting as A “package deal”: Relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents," Demography, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 181-204, February.
    9. Sara Mclanahan, 2004. "Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(4), pages 607-627, November.
    10. Jay Teachman & Jeffrey Thomas & Kathleen Paasch, 1991. "Legal Status and the Stability of Coresidential Unions," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 571-586, November.
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