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The Economics of Non-Marital Childbearing and The “Marriage Premium for Children”

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  • Melissa S. Kearney
  • Phillip B. Levine

Abstract

A large literature exists on the impact of family structure on children’s outcomes, typically focusing on average effects. We build on this with an economic framework that has heterogeneous predictions regarding the potential benefit for children of married parents. We propose that the gains to marriage from a child’s perspective depend on a mother’s own level of resources, the additional net resources that her partner would bring, and the outcome-specific returns to resources. Data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics are consistent with the heterogeneous predictions of this framework. In terms of high school completion or avoiding poverty at age 25, the “marriage premium for children” is highest for children of mothers with high school degrees and mothers in their early/mid-20s. For the more advanced outcomes of college completion or high income at age 25, the marriage premium is monotonically increasing with observed maternal age and education.

Suggested Citation

  • Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2017. "The Economics of Non-Marital Childbearing and The “Marriage Premium for Children”," NBER Working Papers 23230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23230
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marianne Bertrand & Jessica Pan, 2013. "The Trouble with Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 32-64, January.
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    8. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    9. Ariel Kalil & Rebecca Ryan & Michael Corey, 2012. "Diverging Destinies: Maternal Education and the Developmental Gradient in Time With Children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(4), pages 1361-1383, November.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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