The Relationship Context of Early Fatherhood: National Estimates Based on Multiple Surveys

Kathryn Hynes, Pennsylvania State University
Elizabeth Peters, Cornell University
Emily Doyle, Pennsylvania State University

Although fertility rates for teens and young adults are lower today than ten years ago, concern about early fertility remains because so many of these births are to single and cohabiting parents. We use data from the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth to understand whether the factors that predict early births also predict whether the birth will be to single, cohabiting or married parents. Opportunity costs appear to influence the decision to have an early birth but do not predict the relationship context of that birth. In contrast, variables proxying more sociological influences are clearer predictors of the relationship context of an early birth. We find there have been few changes in the strength of the association between individual characteristics and early family formation behaviors over time and that changes in the underlying composition of the population are not driving the observed changes in family formation behavior.

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Presented in Poster Session 6