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Keywords:

  • low-income families;
  • marriage;
  • single-parent families;
  • union formation

This study analyzed trends in marital behavior for unwed mothers who gave birth between 1960 and 2004. With nationally representative data on 15,353 White and Black unmarried mothers, results indicated that mothers who gave birth after 1989 were waiting much longer to marry than were mothers giving birth before 1968. The most pronounced delays were found immediately after a birth. Over the study period, the cumulative proportion of women who married within three years of a birth decreased for Whites by 27% and for Blacks by 60%. Findings underscore the separation that has developed between first births and first marriages in the United States, and they highlight the older ages at which children are experiencing a transition to marriage.