Transitions of Disadvantaged Cohabiting Mothers into Marriage

Daniel T. Lichter, Ohio State University
Leanna M. Mellott, Ohio State University

Marriage is at the center of public policy debates over reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform bill. In this paper, we examine patterns of union formation among disadvantaged cohabiting mothers. Specifically, we focus on transitions to marriage or singlehood among cohabiting women. Data come from the newly-released cohabitation histories in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979-2002). For the first time, the partners of the NLSY cohabiting women are matched over successive survey waves. This provides a new opportunity to evaluate the effects of women's economic circumstances and welfare receipt, as well as their marital and fertility histories (including serial partners and the biological relatedness of co-residential children), on union transitions. We fit discrete time multinominal event history models of union transitions, while controlling for individual fixed effects. Our primary goal is to identify barriers to marriage among cohabiting mothers.

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Presented in Session 35: Cohabitation