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

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  • Laura Tach

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  • Kathryn Edin

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Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Tach & Kathryn Edin, 2013. "The Compositional and Institutional Sources of Union Dissolution for Married and Unmarried Parents in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(5), pages 1789-1818, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:5:p:1789-1818
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-013-0203-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. Laura Tach & Ronald Mincy & Kathryn Edin, 2010. "Parenting as A “package deal”: Relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(1), pages 181-204, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:pri:crcwel:wp13-09-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Peter Fallesen & Richard Breen, 2016. "Temporary Life Changes and the Timing of Divorce," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(5), pages 1377-1398, October.
    3. Kelly Musick & Katherine Michelmore, 2015. "Change in the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following the Birth of a Child," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(5), pages 1463-1485, October.
    4. Nancy E. Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan, 2013. "Effects of Mental Health on Couple Relationship Status," NBER Working Papers 19164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Nancy Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan, 2015. "Effects of maternal depression on couple relationship status," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 929-973, December.
    6. Nancy E. Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan, 2013. "Effects of Mental Health on Couple Relationship Status," Working Papers 1473, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    7. Karen Benjamin Guzzo & Cassandra Dorius, 2016. "Challenges in Measuring and Studying Multipartnered Fertility in American Survey Data," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 35(4), pages 553-579, August.

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