Marital Status and Fertility in the United States: Welfare and Labor Market Effects
The incidence of marriage and the proportion of childbearing that occurs within marriage have decreased sharply in the United States in the last several decades. This paper examines whether the probability that a woman is currently married and the number of children she has borne, as reported in the 1980 U.S. Census, are related to two identifiable factors: the variation in welfare programs across states (specifically, AFDC and Medicaid benefits and AFDC-UP expenditures) or the variation in the market wage opportunities available to women and to their potential husbands. AFDC and Medicaid benefit levels are associated with fewer women being currently married. Medicaid benefits are related to lower fertility levels for both black and white women, whereas AFDC benefits in cash and food are associated with lower fertility among white women ages 15-24. Those states that extend AFDC benefits to families with unemployed parents (in other words, fathers in intact poor families) do not have significantly more women married or higher fertility rates, contrary to what might be expected from economic incentives. Men's market wages are associated with more frequent marriage and higher fertility, whereas higher market wage opportunities for women have substantial effects in the opposite direction, all of which are consistent with standard models of gender specialization and the demand for marriage and fertility.
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