We use more than 20 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to examine wealth trajectories among mothers following a nonmarital first birth. We compare wealth according to union type and union stability, and we distinguish partners by biological parentage of the firstborn child. Net of controls for education, race/ethnicity, and family background, single mothers who enter into stable marriages with either a biological father or stepfather experience significant wealth advantages over time (more than $2,500 per year) relative to those who marry and divorce, cohabit, or remain unpartnered. Sensitivity analyses adjusting for unequal selection into marriage support these findings and demonstrate that race (but not ethnicity) and age at first birth structure mothers’ access to later marriage. We conclude that not all single mothers have equal access to marriage; however, marriage, union stability, and paternity have distinct roles for wealth accumulation following a nonmarital birth.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adrianne_frech/1/