An Economic Analysis of Co-Parenting Choices: Single Parent, Visiting Father, Cohabitation, Marriage
This paper sheds light on the determinants of choice between four co- parenting arrangements: father absence, father’s non-residential visitations, cohabitation, and marriage. In our theoretical framework, we use an adaptation of Becker’s Demand & Supply (D&S) model of marriage and a hierarchy of co-parenting arrangements--ranked in terms of degree of fathers’ involvement in the lives of mother or child--as an observable price measure for women’s work as mothers. We predict effects on co-parenting choice of factors such as welfare benefits, sex ratios, income, black versus white, or education, and black/white differences in these effects. We test our predictions with data from the Fragile Families and Child-Wellbeing Survey. Our findings include (1) the larger the grant amount in the state where the mother resides, the more it is likely that fathers will have some contact with their children, and the more it is likely that fathers will cohabit with the mothers; (2) fathers who have more children with other women are less likely to have contact with a given woman’s children, but this discouraging effect of men’s other children is smaller for blacks than for whites; and (3) employment in the last year reduces the likelihood that a white mother is married to her child’s father, while increasing that likelihood among black mothers.
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