A joint model of marital childbearing and marital disruption

by Lee A. Lillard, Linda Waite

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Married couples with children appear less likely to end their marriages than childless couples, especially when the children are young. Although this suggests that children affect the chances that their parents divorce, the process may not be this simple. The chances that the marriage will last may also affect couples' willingness to make the commitment to the marriage implied by having children. This paper uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to test the hypothesis that the risk of disruption faced by a married woman affects the chances that she conceives and bears a child. The model used takes into account the simultaneous relationships between marital dissolution and marital fertility by including the hazard of disruption as a predictor of timing and likelihood of marital conception, and by including the results of previous fertility decisions as predictors of disruption of the marriage. The authors find that the hazard of disruption has strong, negative effects on the hazard of marital childbearing, lengthening the intervals between births and decreasing the chances that a child is born. This effect appears strongest for women who have had at least one child, either before the current marriage or during it, although it is also large for childless women. Explicitly including the hazard of disruption in models of marital childbearing has sizable and important effects on many predictors of fertility.

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