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This paper reviews demographic trends in marriage, divorce, fertility, and labor force participation that have dramatically affected the structure of families in the United States in the last four decades. The authors summarize what is known about the determinants of these trends, the interrelations among them, and their consequences for women, men, and children. Increases in divorce and nonmarital childbearing have led to a considerable increase in the number of children living in single-parent (usually female-headed) households. The purported consequences of living in such families (or of having a teenage mother) tend to be overstated if one does not take into account the selectivity of those who become single mothers (or teenage mothers). Another important trend affecting families is the dramatic increase in the proportion of women, at all stages of family formation, who work outside their homes. This has led to some changes in roles within the household and appears to be an important correlate of many of the other demographic trends reviewed in the paper.

Originally published in: Population Index, v. 59, no. 3, Fall 1993, pp. 350-386.

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