Interdependencies Over the LIfe Course: Women's Fertility, Marital, and Educational Experiences

by Lee A. Lillard, Constantijn (Stan) Panis, Dawn Upchurch

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The development of life course research over the past several decades has informed scholars of the complexity of individual lives. A large literature exists which has creatively attempted to incorporate life course theory of interrelated transitions and trajectories. However, it has been very difficult to statistically account for the jointness across them. Therefore, life course research is at a critical juncture of development. This paper examines women's life course over five processes (education, nonmarital and marital fertility, marriage formation and marriage dissolution) using econometric techniques that incorporate the jointness across trajectories, and that include multiple transitions and the relative timing of events. The authors find significant heterogeneity within processes and significant correlations across processes, indicating that they are indeed jointly determined. Ignoring their endogeneity leads to biased estimates and even, in some cases, incorrect conclusions. The authors then discuss implications for life course research.

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