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Race and the Retreat From Marriage: A Shortage of Marriageable Men?

Daniel T. Lichter, Diane K. McLaughlin, George Kephart and David J. Landry
American Sociological Review
Vol. 57, No. 6 (Dec., 1992), pp. 781-799
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096123
Page Count: 19
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Race and the Retreat From Marriage: A Shortage of Marriageable Men?
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Abstract

We evaluate a marital search model that links the quantity and quality of available men to first marriage transitions among black women and white women in the United States. Our analysis provides a more complex assessment of the hypothesis that racial differences in transitions to first marriage reflect shortages of marriageable men in local marriage markets. We attach several indicators of local marriage market conditions (primarily sex ratios from the 1980 Census) to women's marital histories available in the 1979 through 1986 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Our discrete-time logit models support the following conclusions: (1) A shortage in the quantity and quality of available males in local areas depresses women's transitions to first marriage; (2) economic independence among women (as measured by employment and earnings) is positively associated with entry into marriage; (3) racial differences in mate availability account for a relatively small share of existing racial differences in marriage; (4) indicators of local mate availability nevertheless account for a larger proportion of observed racial differences in transitions to first marriage than factors such as family background, welfare status and living arrangements (e.g., multigenerational family); (5) the effects of marriage market characteristics are contingent on whether women are "searching" in the marriage market; and (6) the effect of a shortage of "economically attractive" men is not simply an artifact of local demographic deficits of men to marry.

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