No Time for Marriage? Time Constraints and Low-Income Mothers' Marriage and Cohabitation Decisions

Pamela Joshi, Harvard University
James Quane, Harvard University
Elisabeth Jacobs, Harvard University

As welfare reform debates turn to marriage promotion, research is beginning to explore low-income single mothers' union formation decisions. Findings from the qualitative component of the Fragile Families study suggests that one barrier to marriage is time constraints associated with raising and supporting a family. Using data from the Welfare, Children and Families study, this paper explores how time constraints associated with balancing work and parenting may limit opportunities for single mothers to establish and maintain stable relationships. Findings from multinomial logit models indicate that decisions to cohabit or marry may be driven by different factors. While mothers' human capital characteristics play a significant role in either outcome, the time constraints associated with working nonstandard schedules has deleterious consequences for marriage. Decisions to cohabit are not influenced by work schedules. These results suggest that policies focusing on increasing employment and marriage promotion, without considering mothers' shift work, may be misguided.

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Presented in Session 98: Union Formation