Promises They Can Keep: Low-Income Women’s Attitudes Toward Motherhood, Marriage, and Divorce


Hopkins Population Center, 3003 N. Charles St., Annex Suite 300, Baltimore, MD 21218 (


Using data on low-income mothers in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, we test three propositions regarding mothers’ attitudes toward childbearing, marriage, and divorce. These are drawn from K. Edin and M. J. Kefalas (2005) but have also arisen in other recent studies. We find strong support for the proposition that childbearing outside of marriage carries little stigma, limited support for the proposition that women prefer to have children well before marrying, and almost no support for the proposition that women hesitate to marry because they fear divorce. We suggest that mothers’ attitudes and preferences in these three domains do not support the long delay between childbearing and marriage that has been noted in the literature.