Educational Attainment and Transitions to Marriage Following a Nonmarital Birth

Kristen Harknett, University of Pennsylvania
Arielle Kuperberg, University of Pennsylvania

Educational differences in the retreat from marriage are well documented, but surprisingly little research has tested the explanations for educational differences in marriage. We combine survey data from an urban sample of over 2,000 unmarried mothers and fathers in the U.S. with labor market data from the Current Population Survey to test explanations for educational differences in marriage following a nonmarital birth. In our sample, 33% of college-educated mothers and 15% of mothers without a high school degree married the father of their child after the birth. This big difference is not explained by educational differences in family-related attitudes. Instead, economic circumstances and labor market opportunities explain a sizable portion of educational differences in marriage following a birth. Father having higher levels of educational attainment than the mother is positively associated with marriage, and this result is not altered by controls for attitudes, economic circumstances, or economic opportunities.

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Presented in Session 37: Marriage and Union Formation