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

Listed author(s):
  • Melissa S. Kearney
  • Phillip B. Levine

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23230.

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Date of creation: Mar 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23230
Note: CH LS PE
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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.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, April.
  3. 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.
  4. Katrine V. Løken & Magne Mogstad & Matthew Wiswall, 2012. "What Linear Estimators Miss: The Effects of Family Income on Child Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 1-35, April.
  5. Milligan, Kevin & Stabile, Mark, 2007. "The integration of child tax credits and welfare: Evidence from the Canadian National Child Benefit program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 305-326, February.
  6. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "The Intergenerational Effects of Worker Displacement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 455-483, 07.
  7. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 2007. "The American Family and Family Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 3-26, Spring.
  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.
  10. Amalia R. Miller, 2009. "Motherhood Delay and the Human Capital of the Next Generation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 154-158, May.
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