The objectives of this study were to examine whether and how characteristics of the relationship dyad are linked to nonmarital childbearing among young adult women, additionally distinguishing between cohabiting and nonunion births.


We used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 Cohort and discrete time-event history methods to examine these objectives.


Our analyses found that similarities and differences between women and their most recent sexual partner in educational attainment, disengagement from work or school, race/ethnicity, and age were linked to the risk and context of nonmarital childbearing. For example, partner disengagement (from school and work) was associated with increased odds of a nonmarital birth regardless of whether the woman herself was disengaged. Additionally, having a partner of a different race/ethnicity was associated with nonmarital childbearing for whites, but not for blacks and Hispanics.


We conclude that relationship characteristics are an important dimension of the lives of young adults that influence their odds of having a birth outside of marriage.