Divergent Paths: A Life Course Analysis of Marriage and Socioeconomic Status Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth

Margaret Frye, University of California, Berkeley

In the context of increasing promotion of marriage in national and state-level political arenas, a debate has emerged as to how the economic correlates of marriage may operate differently for poor women. This paper uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to analyze (1) the divergent paths of marriage and family formation that women of different socioeconomic status experience in the young adult years, and (2) how the relationship between marriage and net family income at age 35 differs according to socioeconomic status. This life-course analysis shows that the timing of marriage differs vastly across socioeconomic strata, and that a significant interaction exists between socioeconomic status and marital status, measured both in total years spent married and marital status at age 35, in predicting net family income at age 35. These results indicate that marriage operates differently for poor women both in timing and economic outcomes.

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Presented in Poster Session 1