Time Trends and Class Differences in Childless Partnering

Caroline Sten Hartnett, University of Pennsylvania

As childbearing has been delayed in recent decades, the period of life in which women engage in childless partnering has emerged as a significant life stage. I examine time trends and class differences in the duration of time women spend living with partners before their first birth. Using the National Survey of Family Growth, I find that the duration of childless partnering has grown, from approximately 1.8 to 2.4 years between 1988 and 2002. In addition, lower SES women begin childbearing more quickly after entering a first union compared to higher SES women. I argue that these class and cohort differences in childless partnering have implications for family stability and the accumulation of human capital and wealth.

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Presented in Poster Session 1