Nonmarital Fertility, Union History and Women’s Wealth

Matthew A. Painter, University of Wyoming
Adrianne Frech, University of Akron
Kristi Williams, Ohio State University

Nonmarial births are associated with economic disadvantages for mothers, including greater vulnerability to poverty and job loss relative to mothers whose births occur within marriage. It remains unclear whether mothers’ subse quent union transitions and their stability offer some economic security for mothers with a nonmarital first birth. We use twenty years of data from the NLSY79 to examine wealth trajectories for never-married single mothers based on their subsequent union formation and the endurance of these unions. We compare mothers who cohabit, marry, or remain single after a nonmarital birth, and distinguish partners by biological parentage of the firstborn child. We find that although most mothers report similar levels of wealth as young adults, by age forty mothers who enter into stable marriages with the biological father of the firstborn child experience significant wealth advantages relative to mothers who marry a different partner, mothers who cohabit, or mothers who remain unpartnered.

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Presented in Poster Session 5