Early Childbearing, Union Status, and Women's Health at Midlife

Kristi Williams, Ohio State University
Sharon Sassler, Cornell University
Fenaba Addo, Cornell University
Elizabeth Cooksey, Ohio State University

Despite the prevalence of early and nonmarital childbearing, little is known about their long-term consequences for women’s health. We use data from the NLSY79 and multivariate propensity score matching to examine differences in midlife health between women who had an adolescent or young adult first birth and those whose first birth occurred at later ages. We then estimate the effect of marital status at birth and later marital history on the midlife self-assessed health of women who had an early first birth. Results suggest few negative health consequences of early childbearing except for black women who have their first birth in young adulthood. Among those who have an early first birth, marriage at birth appears beneficial for the midlife health of white women, while marriage after a nonmarital birth may pose health risks for black and Hispanic women.

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Presented in Session 74: Families and Well-Being among Older Adults