30 Oct @12:30

The Kids Are Alright: Why Marriage May Not Matter

Speaker(s): Christina Gibson Davis, Duke University

Date: 12:30 on Mon, 30 Oct 2017

Duration: 1.5 hours

Seminar Series: Lunchtime Seminars

Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building,Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UQ

Abstract: One of the most well-established correlations in family demography is the negative association between out-of-wedlock childbearing and child outcomes. However, despite the overwhelming correlational evidence, non-marital childbearing has not been proven to have a causal impact on well-being. This study takes a novel approach to this issue and considers how changes in the share of children born out-of-wedlock (commonly known as the non-marital fertility ratio, or NMFR) has corresponded to changes in child well-being. The expectation is that as a larger share of children are born out of wedlock, an increased share of children have worse outcomes. Data come from several large, nationally representative US data sets that contain information on multiple child domains, and include outcomes measured between 1980 and 2015. Results do not suggest that the increase in the NMFR has led to an increase in adverse birth outcomes. Instead, the majority of results suggest that the as the NMFR has increased, aggregate child outcomes have improved. These results call into question the contention that out-of-wedlock childbearing has negative consequences on child and societal well-being.

Christina M. Gibson Davis is an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. During the 2017-2018 school year, she will be on sabbatical at Oxford University. Her research interests center around social and economic differences in family formation patterns. Her current work focuses on the how divergent patterns in out-of-wedlock child bearing affect economic inequality. Her work has been published in journals across multiple disciplines, including Science, American Journal of Public Health, Demography, and Developmental Psychology, and she has received support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.