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Mate Availability and the Transition to Unwed Motherhood: A Paradox of Population Structure

Scott J. South
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 58, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 265-279
DOI: 10.2307/353494
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353494
Page Count: 15
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Mate Availability and the Transition to Unwed Motherhood: A Paradox of Population Structure
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Abstract

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth are merged with 1980 census data and information on respondents' secondary school to examine the influence of mate availability on the timing of young women's first marriage and premarital childbearing. Event history models that treat first marriage (prior to first birth) and first birth (prior to first marriage) as competing risks reveal modest but statistically significant effects of mate availability on the timing of both life-course events. These effects work in opposite directions in influencing the likelihood that a young woman will become an unwed mother. For White women, an abundance of eligible males in the local marriage market increases the rate of exist from the single, childless state both by hastening entry into marriage and by increasing the risk of nonmarital childbearing. For Black women, the percentage of males in the local marriage pool who are employed accelerates the transition to marriage, while the percentage of males in the respondent's secondary school significantly elevates the risk of a premarital birth.

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