All in the Family

Kevin Lewis

September 01, 2010

Later first marriage and marital success

Norval Glenn, Jeremy Uecker & Robert Love
Social Science Research, September 2010, Pages 787-800

The research reported here used measures of marital success based on both marital survival and marital quality to assess how well first marriages entered at relatively late ages fare in comparison with those entered younger. Analysis of data from five American data sets indicated that the later marriages fare very well in survival but rather poorly in quality. The greatest indicated likelihood of being in an intact marriage of the highest quality is among those who married at ages 22-25, net of the estimated effects of time since first marriage and several variables that might commonly affect age at marriage and marital outcomes. The negative relationship beyond the early to mid-twenties between age at marriage and marital success is likely to be at least partially spurious, and thus it would be premature to conclude that the optimal time for first marriage for most persons is ages 22-25. However, the findings do suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in the way of marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid-twenties.


The power of the family

Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano
Journal of Economic Growth, June 2010, Pages 93-125

We study the importance of family ties on economic behavior. We define our measure of family ties using individual responses from the World Value Survey (WVS) regarding the role of the family and the love and respect that children are expected to have for their parents in 81 countries. We show that with strong family ties home production is higher and families larger, labor force participation of women and youngsters, and geographical mobility lower. To assess causality, we look at the behavior of second generation immigrants. Our results overall indicate a significant influence of the strength of family ties on economic outcomes.


Is the United States Experiencing a "Matrilineal Tilt?": Gender, Family Structures and Financial Transfers to Adult Children

Shelley Clark & Catherine Kenney
Social Forces, June 2010, Pages 1753-1776

Furstenberg et al. (1995) suggested that one unanticipated consequence of current high levels of divorce might be a "matrilineal tilt" in intergenerational wealth flows. This research uses six waves of the Health and Retirement Survey (1992 to 2002) to investigate this possibility with respect to financial transfers from parents to their adult children. We find that although divorced single fathers continue to make transfers to their adult biological children, remarriage substantially reduces fathers' transfers while it increases mothers' transfers to their biological children. Our findings are consistent with both socio-evolutionary and exchange theories predicting women's vs. men's investments in biological vs. stepchildren.


Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School

Michael Rosenfeld
Demography, August 2010, Pages 755-775

I use U.S. census data to perform the first large-sample, nationally representative tests of outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples. The results show that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures. Heterosexual married couples are the family type whose children have the lowest rates of grade retention, but the advantage of heterosexual married couples is mostly due to their higher socio-economic status. Children of all family types (including children of same-sex couples) are far more likely to make normal progress through school than are children living in group quarters (such as orphanages and shelters).


Does Children's Academic Achievement Improve when Single Mothers Marry?

Robert Wagmiller, Elizabeth Gershoff, Philip Veliz & Margaret Clements
Sociology of Education, July 2010, Pages 201-226

Promoting marriage, especially among low-income single mothers with children, is increasingly viewed as a promising public policy strategy for improving developmental outcomes for disadvantaged children. Previous research suggests, however, that children's academic achievement either does not improve or declines when single mothers marry. In this article, the authors argue that previous research may understate the benefits of mothers' marriages to children from single-parent families because (1) the short-term and long-term developmental consequences of marriage are not adequately distinguished and (2) child and family contexts in which marriage is likely to confer developmental advantages are not differentiated from those that do not. Using multiple waves of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), the authors find that single mothers' marriages are associated with modest but statistically significant improvements in their children's academic achievement trajectories. However, only children from more advantaged single-parent families benefit from their mothers' marriage.


Is spousal similarity for personality a matter of convergence or selection?

Mikhila Humbad, Brent Donnellan, William Iacono, Matthew McGue & Alexandra Burt
Personality and Individual Differences, November 2010, Pages 827-830

We investigated whether spousal similarity for personality traits results from convergence (i.e., couples becoming more similar to one another over time) or selection (i.e., individuals selecting partners with similar traits) in a sample of 1296 married couples. Personality was assessed using the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. We evaluated whether similarity increased with increasing length of marriage. Evidence of spousal convergence was inconsistent across analyses, arguing against this mechanism as a compelling explanation for spousal similarity. Accordingly, selection processes may better explain spousal similarity in these data. The one exception might be for aggressive aspects of personality.


Do wives' work hours hurt husbands' health? Reassessing the care work deficit thesis

Kristen Springer
Social Science Research, September 2010, Pages 801-813

Prior research suggests that wives' full-time employment harms husbands' health because employed wives have less time to promote their husbands' salubrious behavior ("care work deficit thesis" (CWDT)). In this manuscript, I analyze couple-level, longitudinal Health and Retirement Study data to assess whether evidence for the CWDT is robust to an array of sensitivity tests and correction of limitations from prior research. Specifically, I account for methodological/measurement limitations (i.e. proxy reporting), causal ordering/selection concerns (i.e. retirement and reverse causation), and conceptual issues (i.e. wives' income vs. wives' hours affecting husbands' health). The results provide strong and repeated evidence that prior support for the CWDT is due to conceptual and model misspecification. In other words, the results indicate that wives' full-time work hours do not harm husbands' health. However, further analyses suggest that wives' and husbands' income may differently affect husbands' health, underscoring the need for gendered analyses of income and health within marriage.


Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma

Todd Kendall & Robert Tamura
Journal of Law and Economics, February 2010, Pages 185-221

Children born to unmarried parents may receive lower human capital investments, leading to higher levels of criminal activity as adults. Therefore, unmarried fertility may be positively associated with future crime. Alternatively, in an environment in which social stigma attached to nonmarital fertility is high, many low‐match‐quality parents will marry, and children reared in these families may actually be worse off than if their parents had not married. We explore these effects empirically, finding that over the long run unmarried fertility is positively associated with murder and property crime but that the degree of social stigma has affected this relationship. For instance, our results suggest that some marriages in the 1940s and 1950s were of such low quality that the children involved would have been better off in single‐parent households; however, this finding is reversed for marriages in the 1960s and thereafter - many marriages that would have benefited children were forgone.


Reassessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Instability

Steffen Reinhold
Demography, August 2010, Pages 719-733

Premarital cohabitation has been found to be positively correlated with the likelihood of marital dissolution in the United States. To reassess this link, I estimate proportional hazard models of marital dissolution for first marriages by using pooled data from the 1988, 1995, and 2002 surveys of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). These results suggest that the positive relationship between premarital cohabitation and marital instability has weakened for more recent birth and marriage cohorts. Using multiple marital outcomes for a person to account for one source of unobserved heterogeneity, panel models suggest that cohabitation is not selective of individuals with higher risk of marital dissolution and may be a stabilizing factor for higher-order marriages. Further research with more recent data is needed to assess whether these results are statistical artifacts caused by data weaknesses in the NSFG.


Is love a flimsy foundation? Soulmate versus institutional models of marriage

Bradford Wilcox & Jeffrey Dew
Social Science Research, September 2010, Pages 687-699

Steven Nock argued that love - understood narrowly in terms of emotional and sexual intimacy - was a flimsy foundation for relationships and that the institution of marriage provided a firmer footing for stable, high-quality relationships than love alone. Relying on data from the Marriage Matters Survey of 1414 married men and women in Louisiana (1998-2004), we extended Nock's insights to consider whether contemporary marriages organized along institutional lines enjoyed more stability, satisfaction, and less conflict than marriages organized around a soulmate model. Largely consistent with Nock's perspective, we found that individuals who embraced norms of marital permanency and gender specialization and were embedded in social networks and religious institutions enjoyed high-quality stable marriages, so long as they also focused on the expressive dimension of married life. By contrast, spouses who embraced a soulmate model of marriage experienced high levels of satisfaction but also experienced high levels of conflict and divorce. Finally, spouses who embraced traditional norms about marriage without the benefit of social support for those norms reported low levels of marital quality.


Working-Class Job Loss, Gender, and the Negotiation of Household Labor

Elizabeth Miklya Legerski & Marie Cornwall
Gender & Society, August 2010, Pages 447-474

Scholars see the gendered division of household labor as a stronghold of gender inequality. We explore changes in household labor and gender relations when conservative, working-class families experience employment disruptions. Using data from 49 qualitative interviews conducted with men and women following the forced unemployment of breadwinning husbands, we observe some change in gendered household labor but conclude that a significant degendering of housework is thwarted by institutional-, interactive-, and individual-level processes. At the institutional level, the lack of well-paying jobs and the persistent gendering of household tasks discourage change. At the individual level, challenges to gendered identities encourage a reinforcement of traditional gender ideologies. At the interactional level, women's responsibility for care work and the meaning of paid work for unemployed husbands forestall the adjustment of tasks.


Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty

Gordon Dahl
Demography, August 2010, Pages 689-718

Both early teen marriage and dropping out of high school have historically been associated with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher poverty rates throughout life. Are these negative outcomes due to preexisting differences, or do they represent the causal effect of marriage and schooling choices? To better understand the true personal and societal consequences, in this article, I use an instrumental variables (IV) approach that takes advantage of variation in state laws regulating the age at which individuals are allowed to marry, drop out of school, and begin work. The baseline IV estimate indicates that a woman who marries young is 31 percentage points more likely to live in poverty when she is older. Similarly, a woman who drops out of school is 11 percentage points more likely to be poor. The results are robust to a variety of alternative specifications and estimation methods, including limited information maximum likelihood (LIML) estimation and a control function approach. While grouped ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates for the early teen marriage variable are also large, OLS estimates based on individual-level data are small, consistent with a large amount of measurement error.


National estimates of the rise in serial cohabitation

Daniel Lichter, Richard Turner & Sharon Sassler
Social Science Research, September 2010, Pages 754-765

This paper provides new estimates of changing patterns of serial cohabitation, using data from the 1995 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Serial cohabitation is defined as having multiple premarital cohabiting relationships. Analyses indicate that rates of serial cohabitation increased by nearly 40 percent over the late 1990s and early 2000s, and rates were especially high among young adults and recent marriage cohorts. A large majority of women - 75 percent - nevertheless lived only with men they eventually married. Although rates of serial cohabitation are higher among never-married women than ever-married women, there is little indication that single women - even older single women - have embraced serial cohabitation as an alternative to marriage or even as an intensive kind of dating. The results show that serial cohabitation is heavily concentrated among disadvantaged populations (e.g., women who grew up in single parent families). Early sexual activity and teen childbearing are especially important "risk" factors for serial cohabitation in the never-married population. There is little evidence, however, that recent shifts in the sociodemographic risk profile of the US population have been responsible for observed increases in single-instance or serial cohabitation. Increases in serial cohabitation have been broadly experienced across population groups in America.


Pathways to Educational Homogamy in Marital and Cohabiting Unions

Christine Schwartz
Demography, August 2010, Pages 735-753

There is considerable disagreement about whether cohabitors are more or less likely to be educationally homogamous than married couples. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I reconcile many of the disparate findings of previous research by conducting a "stock and flow" analysis of assortative cohabitation and marriage. I find that cohabitors are less likely to be educationally homogamous than married couples overall, but these differences are not apparent when cohabiting and marital unions begin. Instead, the results suggest that differences in educational homogamy by union type are driven by selective exits from marriage and cohabitation rather than by differences in partner choice. Marriages that cross educational boundaries are particularly likely to end. The findings suggest that although cohabitors place greater emphasis on egalitarianism than married couples, this does not translate into greater educational homogamy. The findings are also consistent with a large body of research on cohabitation and divorce questioning the effectiveness of cohabitation as a trial marriage.


Emptying the Nest: Older Men in the United States, 1880-2000

Brian Gratton & Myron Gutmann
Population and Development Review, June 2010, Pages 331-356

Between 1880 and 2000, the percentage of married men 60 and older living only with their wives in empty nest households rose from 19 percent to 78 percent. Data drawn from the US census show that more than half of this transformation occurred in the 30-year period from 1940 to 1970, bookended by moderate increases between 1880 and 1940 and very modest increases after 1970. Two literatures have presented demographic, cultural, and economic explanations for the decline in elderly co-residence with their children, but none adequately accounts for a sharp change in the mid-twentieth century. Both aggregate comparisons and multivariate analysis of factors influencing the living arrangements of elderly men suggest that economic advances for all age groups in the critical 30-year period, along with trends in fertility and immigration, best explain the three-stage shift that made the empty nest the dominant household form for older men by the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Gender Scripts and Age at Marriage in India

Sonalde Desai & Lester Andrist
Demography, August 2010, Pages 667-687

Research on marriage in developing countries has been somewhat narrow in scope because of both conceptual and data limitations. While the feminist literature recognizes marriage as a key institutional site for the production and reproduction of gender hierarchies, little is known about the processes through which this relationship operates. This article uses data from the newly collected India Human Development Survey 2005 for 27,365 ever-married women aged 25-49 to explore ways in which different dimensions of gender in Indian society shape the decisions regarding age at marriage. We explore the impact of three dimensions of gender: (1) economic factors, such as availability of wage employment, dowry expectations, and wedding expenses; (2) indicators of familial empowerment, such as women's role in household decision making and access to and control over resources; and (3) markers of gender performance, such as observance of purdah and male-female separation in the household. Results from hierarchical linear models confirm the importance of markers of gender performance but fail to demonstrate a large role for economic factors and familial empowerment.


The role of the wedding place: Community context and marital timing in nineteenth and early twentieth century Netherlands

Bianca Suanet & Hilde Bras
History of the Family, 11 August 2010, Pages 316-332

This study investigates how community characteristics influenced the timing of marriage of men and women in nineteenth and early twentieth century Netherlands on the basis of a large scale database consisting of marriage certificates covering five provinces of the Netherlands between 1840 and 1922. The results show the significance of religious context for understanding marriage timing in the nineteenth century. Living in a predominantly Catholic community resulted in a later marriage for both men and women, while living in a community that was dominated by Orthodox Protestants resulted in an earlier marriage, particularly for men. In addition, residence in a municipality with a high mobility, a large population size and a high birth rate speeded up marriage timing among both men and women. The results indicate that religious restraint and the urbanization and openness of places are, next to parental social class, of vast importance for understanding marriage timing. As our study only addressed those who married, future research will have to show whether the same mechanisms were at work for those that experienced permanent celibacy.

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