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The Decoupling of Marriage and Parenthood? Trends in the Timing of Marital First Births, 1945-2002

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionHayford, Sarah R., Karen Benjamin Guzzo, and Pamela Smock. 2012. "The Decoupling of Marriage and Parenthood? Trends in the Timing of Marital First Births, 1945-2002." PSC Research Report No. 12-762. June 2012.

The twentieth century saw dramatic increases in childbearing outside of marriage. Although this change in family formation behavior may also have implications for fertility within marriage, marital childbearing has less frequently been studied. This paper uses data from ten fertility surveys to describe changes in the timing of marital childbearing from the 1940s through the beginning of the 21st century for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women. Using harmonized data from the new Integrated Fertility Survey Series, we explore trends in first marital births. Our results suggest increasing bifurcation in patterns of fertility timing for white women. We find that a growing proportion of marriages begin with a premarital conception; at the same time, an increasing proportion of couples are postponing fertility within marriage. For black women, marital fertility is increasingly postponed beyond the early years of marriage. Changes in the timing of childbearing within marriage are not explained by shifts in the educational or age composition of women who marry.

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