The one and only

Kevin Lewis

November 29, 2016

Midpregnancy Marriage and Divorce: Why the Death of Shotgun Marriage Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Christina Gibson-Davis, Elizabeth Ananat & Anna Gassman-Pines

Demography, forthcoming

Conventional wisdom holds that births following the colloquially termed “shotgun marriage” — that is, births to parents who married between conception and the birth — are nearing obsolescence. To investigate trends in shotgun marriage, we matched North Carolina administrative data on nearly 800,000 first births among white and black mothers to marriage and divorce records. We found that among married births, midpregnancy-married births (our preferred term for shotgun-married births) have been relatively stable at about 10 % over the past quarter-century while increasing substantially for vulnerable population subgroups. In 2012, among black and white less-educated and younger women, midpregnancy-married births accounted for approximately 20 % to 25 % of married first births. The increasing representation of midpregnancy-married births among married births raises concerns about well-being among at-risk families because midpregnancy marriages may be quite fragile. Our analysis revealed, however, that midpregnancy marriages were more likely to dissolve only among more advantaged groups. Of those groups considered to be most at risk of divorce — namely, black women with lower levels of education and who were younger — midpregnancy marriages had the same or lower likelihood of divorce as preconception marriages. Our results suggest an overlooked resiliency in a type of marriage that has only increased in salience.



Peter Leeson & Joshua Pierson

Journal of Legal Studies, June 2016, Pages 367-400

Before the mid-1980s, prenuptial agreements had tenuous legal standing in US state courts, which often refused to enforce them. In 1983 the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws promulgated legislation called the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) that was designed to strengthen these agreements’ legal enforcement. Since then, 26 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the UPAA, rendering prenuptial contracts reliably enforceable in their courts. This paper uses data on UPAA adoption to investigate the effect that making prenuptial contracts legally enforceable has had on divorce rates. We find that rendering prenuptial agreements legally enforceable reduced divorce rates in America. We also present the first data on persons who use prenuptial agreements and the substance of those agreements in the United States.


Does exposure to erotica reduce attraction and love for romantic partners in men? Independent replications of Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989) study 2

Rhonda Balzarini et al.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989; Study 2) demonstrated that men, but not women, in committed relationships exposed to erotic images of opposite-sex others reported lower ratings for their partner's sexual attractiveness (d = 0.91) and less love for their partner (d = 0.69) than men exposed to images of abstract art. This research has implications for understanding the possible effects of erotica on men in relationships, but has not been replicated. We conducted three preregistered, high-powered close replications, and meta-analyzed the effects of the original and replication studies. We did not find support for the original finding that exposure to attractive images of opposite-sex others affects males' ratings of their partners' sexual attractiveness or love for their partner.


The Earned Income Tax Credit and union formation: The impact of expected spouse earnings

Katherine Michelmore

Review of Economics of the Household, forthcoming

Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation from 2001, 2004, and 2008 and federal and state variation in earned income tax credit generosity over time, I investigate how changes in expected household earned income tax credit benefits associated with marriage affect cohabitation and marriage behavior among low-income single mothers. I simulate a marriage market to predict potential spouse earnings for a sample of single mothers in order to estimate the potential losses or gains in earned income tax credit benefits upon marriage. Using multinomial logistic regressions, I then analyze how the anticipated loss in earned income tax credit benefits upon marriage affects the likelihood of marrying or cohabiting. Results suggest that the average earned income tax credit-eligible woman can expect to lose approximately US$1,300 in earned income tax credit benefits in the year following marriage, or about half of pre-marriage benefits. Single mothers who expect to lose earned income tax credit benefits upon marriage are 2.5 percentage points less likely to marry their partners and 2.5 percentage points more likely to cohabit compared to single mothers who expect no change or to gain earned income tax credit benefits upon marriage. Despite recent policy efforts to reduce the size of the marriage penalty embedded in the earned income tax credit structure, these results suggest that the earned income tax credit still creates distortions in marriage and cohabitation decisions among low-income single mothers.


Trends in Spouses’ Shared Time in the United States, 1965–2012

Katie Genadek, Sarah Flood & Joan Garcia Roman

Demography, forthcoming

Despite major demographic changes over the past 50 years and strong evidence that time spent with a spouse is important for marriages, we know very little about how time with a spouse has changed — or not — in the United States. Using time diary data from 1965–2012, we examine trends in couples’ shared time in the United States during a period of major changes in American marriages and families. We find that couples without children spent more total time together and time alone together in 2012 than they did in 1965, with total time and time alone together both peaking in 1975. For parents, time spent together increased between 1965 and 2012, most dramatically for time spent with a spouse and children. Decomposition analyses show that changes in behavior rather than changing demographics explain these trends, and we find that the increases in couples’ shared time are primarily concentrated in leisure activities.


The Family Formation Response to a Localized Economic Shock: Evidence from the Fracking Boom

Melissa Kearney & Riley Wilson

University of Maryland Working Paper, November 2016

There has been a well-documented “retreat from marriage” among less educated individuals in the U.S. and non-marital childbearing has become the norm among young mothers and mothers with low levels of education. One hypothesis is that the declining economic position of men in these populations is at least partially responsible for these trends. That leads to the reverse hypothesis that an increase in potential earnings of less-educated men would correspondingly lead to an increase in marriage and a reduction in non-marital births. To investigate this possibility, we empirically exploit the positive economic shock associated with localized “fracking booms” throughout the U.S. in recent decades. We confirm that these localized fracking booms led to increased wages for non-college-educated men. A reduced form analysis reveals that in response to local-area fracking shocks, the non-marital share of births falls. But, both marital and non-marital births increase and there is no evidence of an increase in marriage rates. The pattern of results is consistent with positive income effects on births, but no associated increase in marriage. We compare our findings to the response to the Appalachian coal boom experience of the 1980s, when it appears that marital births and marriage rates increased, but non-marital births did not. This contrast potentially suggests important interactions between economic forces and social context.


How Implicit Theories of Sexuality Shape Sexual and Relationship Well-Being

Jessica Maxwell et al.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

How do people believe they can best maintain sexual satisfaction in their romantic relationships? In the current research, we draw upon the literature on implicit theories of relationships to develop and validate a scale examining 2 types of lay beliefs about how sexual satisfaction can be maintained over time. Individuals high in sexual growth beliefs think that sexual satisfaction is attained from hard work and effort, whereas individuals high in sexual destiny beliefs think that sexual satisfaction is attained through finding a compatible sexual partner. Across 6 studies (2 cross-sectional online studies, a 21-day daily experience study, 2 dyadic studies, and an experimental manipulation; N = 1,896), we find evidence that those higher in sexual growth beliefs experience higher relationship and sexual satisfaction, and have partners who are more satisfied. Conversely, the effects of sexual destiny beliefs on satisfaction are contingent upon signs of partner compatibility: When individuals high in sexual destiny beliefs experience greater sexual disagreements in their relationship, they experience lower relationship quality. These results are independent of general relationship implicit beliefs, providing evidence for the uniqueness of these 2 constructs and the importance of examining implicit beliefs in the domain of sexuality. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that individuals’ lay beliefs about maintaining sexual satisfaction are important for understanding the quality of their sex lives and relationships.


Sperm competition in marriage: Semen displacement, male rivals, and spousal discrepancy in sexual interest

Michael Pham, Tara DeLecce & Todd Shackelford

Personality and Individual Differences, 15 January 2017, Pages 229–232

Non-human males attend to the presence of potential sexual rivals in the local environment to assess sperm competition risk, and adjust accordingly the deployment of sperm competition tactics (e.g., performing semen-displacing copulatory behaviors). We extend this research to humans using data from 45 married couples who completed questionnaires in a laboratory. We found that husbands whose wife spent more time with her male coworkers and male friends (i.e., potential sexual rivals) performed more semen-displacing copulatory behaviors at the couple's most recent copulation. We also found that performance of semen-displacing copulatory behaviors correlated with a novel cue to sperm competition risk: the discrepancy between the husband's sexual interest in his wife and her sexual interest in him. We also tested and refuted an alternative hypothesis that men adjust their copulatory thrusting to facilitate their partner's orgasm. Discussion highlights the novel contributions of the current research and notes limitations that can be addressed by future research.


Women’s Fertility Status Alters Other Women’s Jealousy and Mate Guarding

Ashalee Hurst, Jessica Alquist & David Puts

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Across three studies, we tested the hypothesis that women exhibit greater jealousy and mate guarding toward women who are in the high (vs. low) fertility phase of their cycle. Women who imagined their partner with a woman pictured at high fertility reported more jealousy than women who imagined their partner with a woman pictured at low fertility (Studies 1 and 2). A meta-analysis across studies manipulating fertility status of the pictured woman found a significant effect of fertility status on both jealousy and mate guarding. Women with attractive partners viewed fertile-phase women as less trustworthy, which led to increased mate guarding (Study 2). In Study 3, the closer women were to peak fertility, the more instances they reported of other women acting jealously and mate guarding toward them. These studies provide evidence that women selectively exhibit jealousy and mate guarding toward women who are near peak fertility.


Estrogenic and Progestogenic Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives in Relation to Sexual Behavior: Insights into Extended Sexuality

Trond Viggo Grøntvedt et al.

Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Women's mating adaptations may vary between fertile and luteal phases, given different costs and benefits of sexual activity during each phase. Women's non-conceptive (“extended”) sexuality might function in the context of pair-bonding. The current studies examined associations between women's loyalty and faithfulness to their relationships and frequency of sexual intercourse in women using hormonal contraception. As predicted, in Study 1 estimated levels (adjusted for potency) of both synthetic estrogen and progestin delivered to women moderated the association between women's loyalty/faithfulness to their partner and frequency of intercourse: as estradiol levels diminished, and progestin levels increased, women's loyalty/faithfulness became more positively associated with frequency of intercourse. Study 2 replicated these findings in a sample of women studied over a 12 week period. Results further support claims for a possible function of extended sexuality, and speak to hormonal mechanisms affecting it. They also have important methodological and applied implications.


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