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For richer or for poorer: Marriage as an antipoverty strategy

Author

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  • Adam Thomas

    (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC)

  • Isabel Sawhill

    (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC)

Abstract

This study examines the effects of changes in family structure on children's economic well-being. An initial shift-share analysis indicates that, had the proportion of children living in female-headed families remained constant since 1970, the 1998 child poverty rate would have been 4.4 percentage points lower than its actual 1998 level of 18.3 percent. The March 1999 Current Population Survey is then used to conduct a second analysis in which marriages are simulated between single mothers and demographically similar, unrelated males. The microsimulation analysis addresses some of the shortcomings of the shift-share approach by making it possible to account for the possibility of a shortage of marriageable men, to control for unobservable differences between married men and women and their unmarried counterparts, and to measure directly the effects of increases in marriage on the economic well-being of children. Results from the microsimulation analysis suggest that, had the proportion of children living in female-headed families remained constant since 1970, the child poverty rate would have been 3.4 percentage points lower than its actual 1998 level. Among children whose mother participated in a simulated marriage, the poverty rate would have fallen by almost two-thirds. © 2002 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Thomas & Isabel Sawhill, 2002. "For richer or for poorer: Marriage as an antipoverty strategy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(4), pages 587-599.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:21:y:2002:i:4:p:587-599
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.10075
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.10075
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blackburn, McKinley & Korenman, Sanders, 1994. "The Declining Marital-Status Earnings Differential," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 7(3), pages 247-270, July.
    2. Chun, Hyunbae & Lee, Injae, 2001. "Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 307-319, April.
    3. Cornwell, Christopher & Rupert, Peter, 1997. "Unobservable Individual Effects, Marriage and the Earnings of Young Men," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 285-294, April.
    4. Lerman, Robert I, 1989. "Employment Opportunities of Young Men and Family Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 62-66, May.
    5. Robert A. Nakosteen & Michael A. Zimmer, 1987. "Marital Status and Earnings of Young Men: A Model with Endogenous Selection," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 248-268.
    6. Ellwood, David T & Crane, Jonathan, 1990. "Family Change among Black Americans: What Do We Know?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 65-84, Fall.
    7. Lerman, Robert I, 1996. "The Impact of the Changing US Family Structure on Child Poverty and Income Inequality," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(250), pages 119-139, Suppl..
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Audrey Light, 2004. "Gender differences in the marriage and cohabitation income premium," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 263-284, May.
    2. David Brady & Ryan Finnigan & Sabine Hübgen, 2017. "Rethinking the risks of poverty: a framework for analyzing prevalences and penalties," LIS Working papers 693, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    3. Zachary Parolin, 2018. "Race, Social Assistance & the Risk of Child Poverty across the 50 United States," Working Papers 1804, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    4. Espinosa, Javier & Evans, William N., 2008. "Heightened mortality after the death of a spouse: Marriage protection or marriage selection?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1326-1342, September.
    5. Kristen Harknett, 2009. "Why are Children with Married Parents Healthier? The Case of Pediatric Asthma," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 28(3), pages 347-365, June.
    6. Ronald Mincy & Jennifer Hill & Marilyn Sinkewicz, 2009. "Marriage: Cause or mere indicator of future earnings growth?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(3), pages 417-439.
    7. Rebekah Burroway & David Brady, 2010. "Targeting, Universalism and Single Mother Poverty: A Multi-level Analysis Across 18 Affluent Democracies," LIS Working papers 554, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    8. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert, 2013. "Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010," IZA Discussion Papers 7607, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. repec:kap:jfamec:v:38:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10834-017-9523-x is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Patrick Kline & Emmanuel Saez, 2014. "Where is the land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1553-1623.
    11. 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.
    12. 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).
    13. repec:anr:reveco:v:9:y:2017:p:327-352 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2017. "The Economics of Nonmarital Childbearing and the Marriage Premium for Children," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 9(1), pages 327-352, September.
    15. repec:hrv:faseco:30750027 is not listed on IDEAS

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