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Does It Matter What She Wants? The Role of Individual Preferences Against Unmarried Motherhood in Young Women’s Likelihood of a Nonmarital First Birth

Rachel M. Shattuck ()
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Rachel M. Shattuck: University of Maryland

Demography, 2017, vol. 54, issue 4, 1451-1475

Abstract: Abstract Most young people in the United States express the desire to marry. Norms at all socioeconomic levels posit marriage as the optimal context for childbearing. At the same time, nonmarital fertility accounts for approximately 40 % of U.S. births, experienced disproportionately by women with educational attainment less than a bachelor’s degree. Research has shown that women’s intentions for the number and timing of children and couples’ intent to marry are strong predictors of realized fertility and marriage. The present study investigates whether U.S. young women’s preferences about nonmarital fertility, as stated before childbearing begins, predict their likelihood of having a nonmarital first birth. I track marriage and fertility histories through ages 24–30 of women asked at ages 11–16 whether they would consider unmarried childbearing. One-quarter of women who responded “no” in fact had a nonmarital birth by age 24–30. The ability of women and their partners to access material resources in adulthood were, as expected, the strongest predictors of the likelihood of nonmarital childbearing. Nonetheless, I find that women who said they would not consider nonmarital childbearing had substantially higher hazards of fertility postponement and especially of marital fertility, even after controlling for race/ethnicity, mother’s educational attainment, family of origin intactness, self-efficacy and planning ability, perceived future prospects, and markers of own educational attainment and work experience into early adulthood.

Keywords: Nonmarital fertility; Fertility intentions; Family formation preferences (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0586-y