Determinants of Planned and Unplanned Childbearing among Unmarried Women in the United States

Musick, Kelly
Working paper no. 1999-09


Increases in cohabitation and delays in first marriage have changed the composition and character of nonmarital births, with implications for how we understand the individual-level determinants of this important phenomenon. This paper uses Cycle 5 of the National Survey of Family Growth to investigate the determinants of planned and unplanned childbearing among unmarried women in the early 1990s. Results show consistency in who expresses approval of nonmarital childbearing for self and who has a birth out of wedlock. Cohabitation, prior childbearing, and spending time in a single-parent family during childhood increase the likelihood of a nonmarital birth, while education and parental resources decrease the likelihood. Results point to important differences in the determinants of planned and unplanned childbearing, as well as differences in the magnitude and pattern of education, family background, and union status effects by parity and race/Hispanic origin.