Single Mothers, Union History and Health at Midlife

Kristi Williams, Ohio State University
Sharon Sassler, Cornell University
Adrianne Frech, Ohio State University
Fenaba Addo, Cornell University

Recent policy initiatives emphasize that encouraging marriage can improve the lives of disadvantaged single mothers and their children. Although, on average, married individuals are healthier than the unmarried, little research examines the association of marriage or partnering with the later health of single mothers. We analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 to determine whether marriage or cohabitation following the birth of a child to a single mother has consequences for her health at midlife. We focus on never-married mothers, distinguish unions that endure from those that dissolve and consider whether associations between unions and health depend on the paternity status of the mother’s spouse/partner. Preliminary results indicate that single mothers who marry the biological father of their child report better health at age 40 than those who remain unpartnered, regardless of whether the marriage endures. Subsequent analyses will employ propensity score matching to determine whether results are robust to selection processes.

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Presented in Session 77: Families and Health