Marriage Markets and nonmarital fertility

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Citation: South, Scott J., Lloyd, Kim M. (1992) Marriage Markets and nonmarital fertility. Demography (Volume 29) (RSS)

Tagged: uw-madison (RSS), wisconsin (RSS), sociology (RSS), demography (RSS), prelim (RSS), qual (RSS), WisconsinDemographyPrelimAugust2009 (RSS)


The authors merge census microdata with vital statistics data to examine the effect of women's marriage opportunities on nonmarital fertility rates and ratios across 75 U.S. metropolitan areas. The data for this study comes from two sources: the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data files on births occurring in 1980 and 1981 and the Public Use Microsamples (PUMS) of the 1980 U.S. Census. Using the NCHS data, births are tabulated by women's marital status (married or unmarried), race (white or black), age, education (years completed: 0-11, 12, or 13 or more), and metropolitan area of residence. The numbers are weighted according to the NCHS sampling frame. The data for 75 of the 100 largest SMSAs are included in the analysis. The PUMS data is used to determine the denominators for the birth rate for the above groups, and to construct a measure of 'suitable' marriage opportunities available to each category of women, where 'suitability' entails that prospective husbands and wives be currently unmarried, belong to the same race, and live in the same metropolitan area. The authors also weight the number of unmarried men (and the women available to them) by the proportional distribution of marriages in the entire U.S. occurring to those women (and men) in 1980. The variable used in the analysis is then the ratio of suitable men to suitable women. Other variables included in the analysis were the percentage of men in the numerator who report that they were not employed, AFDC payments per family, race-specific male and female median incomes for year-round full-time workers, SMSA population size, the percentage of SMSA residents who live in the central city or cities, and a dummy for being located in the South. Measures of the quantity and 'quality' of marriageable men simultaneously specific for women's age, race, education, and place of residence reveal especially poor marriage prospects for highly educated black women. The effect of mate available on nonmarital fertility is generally modest. Among white women, marriage opportunities are associated inversely with the nonmarital fertility rate, perhaps reflecting an increased likelihood that a premarital conception will be legitimated. Marriage opportunities also reduce nonmarital fertility ratios for young black and white women. The nonmarital fertility rate is lower among women whose marriage pool includes a large percentage of nonemployed males. Only a small proportion of the racial differences in nonmarital fertility appears attributable to differences in the marriage markets of black and of white women.