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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

Suggested Citation

  • Paula England & Lawrence Wu & Emily Shafer, 2013. "Cohort Trends in Premarital First Births: What Role for the Retreat From Marriage?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 2075-2104, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:6:p:2075-2104
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-013-0241-1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lawrence Wu, 2008. "Cohort estimates of nonmarital fertility for U.S. Women," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(1), pages 193-207, February.
    2. 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;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 33(2), pages 141-151, May.
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    5. Welch, Finis, 1990. "The Employment of Black Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 26-74, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yujin Kim & R. Raley, 2015. "Race-Ethnic Differences in the Non-marital Fertility Rates in 2006–2010," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(1), pages 141-159, February.
    2. Christina M. Gibson-Davis & Elizabeth O. Ananat & Anna Gassman-Pines, 2016. "Midpregnancy Marriage and Divorce: Why the Death of Shotgun Marriage Has Been Greatly Exaggerated," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(6), pages 1693-1715, December.
    3. Jessica Su & Rachel Dunifon & Sharon Sassler, 2015. "Better for Baby? The Retreat From Mid-Pregnancy Marriage and Implications for Parenting and Child Well-being," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1167-1194, August.

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    Keywords

    Fertility; Nonmarital births; Marriage; Pregnancy;

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