Coping with a Premaritally-Conceived Birth

Cook, Steven T., Enilda Delgado, and Gary Sandefur
Working paper no. 1998-18


Births that are conceived before a first marriage result in difficult decisions about where and with whom the mother should live, and how she should support herself and her child. These decisions are influenced by personal characteristics of the young mother and by her living arrangements and activities before the conception. We use data from the 1979-1992 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to examine the distributions of living arrangements and the economic wellbeing of young women after a birth that results from a premarital pregnancy. Our findings show that approximately 37 percent of the young women who have such births live with their husbands in the year following the birth, while 1/3 live with their parents, 12 percent cohabit, and 18 percent are on their own and unmarried. Race, education, living arrangements prior to conception, and other characteristics of the mothers are associated with living arrangements and economic wellbeing after the birth has occurred.