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Single Parenthood and Childhood Outcomes in the Mid-Nineteenth Century Urban South

  • Howard Bodenhorn

Families are the core social institution and a growing body of research documents the costs of single parenthood for children in the twentieth century. This study documents racial differences in the incidence and costs of single parenthood in the mid-nineteenth century. Data from the urban South reveal two notable consequences of single parenthood. First, white children residing with single mothers left school earlier than children residing with two parents. Black children in single mother homes started school later and left school earlier. Single motherhood is therefore associated with less lifetime schooling for both races, but the consequences of living in a nontraditional home was larger for blacks. Second, single motherhood was associated with an increased incidence of labor force participation for white youth, but not for blacks. Single parenthood imposed costs, in terms of foregone human capital formation, on children in the mid-nineteenth century, but the consequences of single motherhood were mitigated by social norms toward childhood education.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12056.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Bodenhorn, Howard. "Single Parenthood and Childhood Outcomes in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Urban South." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 38, 1 (Summer 2007): 33-64.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12056
Note: CH DAE
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  1. Howard Bodenhorn & Christopher Ruebeck, 2007. "Colourism and African–american wealth: evidence from the nineteenth-century south," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 599-620, July.
  2. Arnstein Aassve, 2000. "Economic resources and single motherhood: incidence and resolution of premarital childbearing among young American women," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2000-015, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  3. Howard Bodenhorn, 2003. "Just and Reasonable Treatment: Racial Treatment in the Terms of Pauper Apprenticeship in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Working Papers 9752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stephen Crawford, 1992. "The Slave Family: A View from the Slave Narratives," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 331-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Manski, C.F. & Sandefur, G.D. & Mclanahan, S. & Powers, D., 1990. "Alternative Estimates Of The Effect Of Family Stucture During Adolescence On Hight School Graduation," Working papers 90-31, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  6. Conley, Timothy G. & Galenson, David W., 1998. "Nativity and Wealth in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cities," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 468-493, June.
  7. 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.
  8. Robert J. Willis, 1999. "A Theory of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S33-S64, December.
  9. Derek Neal, 2001. "The Economics of Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 8519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Howard Bodenhorn, 2002. "The Complexion Gap: The Economic Consequences of Color among Free African Americans in the Rural Antebellum South," NBER Working Papers 8957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Dora L. Costa, 2003. "Health and Labor Force Participation over the Life Cycle: Evidence from the Past," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number cost03-1, July.
  12. Darity, William, Jr & Myers, Samuel L, Jr, 1983. "Changes in Black Family Structure: Implications for Welfare Dependency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 59-64, May.
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