Pathways to Childlessness in the United States: A Group-Based Analysis of Employment and Marital Union Trajectories

Ozcan Tunalilar, University of Florida
Robert G. White, University of Florida

The rate of permanent childlessness has been increasing in the United States for the last three decades. To identify distinct origins of childlessness, I examine lifetime patterns of education, employment and marriage between the ages of 18 and 44. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979-2010), I identify trajectories of educational attainment, labor force attachment and marital status separately for men and women, and link them to likelihood of remaining childless. White, never-married men and women are more likely to remain childless. Family background has differential effects for remaining childless by sex. Early transition to labor force was highly influential for women’s likelihood of remaining childless but not for men’s. The reverse was true for the effect of timing of first marriage. The distinct trajectories men and women follow to childlessness illustrates the lifelong patterns of accumulating risks for childlessness.

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Presented in Session 189: Life Course Perspectives on Fertility