The Decoupling of Marriage and Parenthood? Trends in the Timing of Marital First Births, 1945-1995

Sarah R. Hayford, Arizona State University
Pamela J. Smock, University of Michigan

The twentieth century saw dramatic increases in childbearing outside of marriage. Changes in family formation behavior may also have implications for fertility within marriage, but marital childbearing has less frequently been studied. This paper uses data from ten fertility surveys to describe changes in the timing of marital childbearing since the 1940s. We analyze harmonized data from the Integrated Fertility Survey Series to explore trends in (1) the proportion of marriages begun after a conception and before a birth; (2) the average time to first birth in marriage; and (3) variation in timing of first marital birth. Preliminary results suggest a bifurcation in fertility timing: An increasing proportion of marriages begin with a premarital conception, while simultaneously more couples are postponing fertility within marriage. The complete paper will assess the extent to which these trends can be explained by changes in the age and educational composition of married couples.

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Presented in Session 106: Family Formation and Dissolution in the Contemporary United States