Who Should Marry Whom?: Multiple Partner Fertility Among New Parents

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This paper documents the extent and correlates of multiple partner fertility among parents in the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey in order to assess the opportunities and challenges that await marriage promotion policies which are attracting the attention of policy makers. We find that the majority of mothers who responded to the baseline and 12-month follow-up surveys are not first time mothers and the majority of mothers with two or more children have had at least one child with someone other than the father of their newborn. According to mothers' reports, fathers are equally likely to exhibit multiple partner fertility. While the descriptive analysis cannot speak to causation, our results are certainly consistent with the hypothesis that multiple partner fertility reduces the probability of marriage for mothers and fathers. Multiple partner fertility is rare among teenaged mothers, but fairly high among African American mothers and fathers, which may help to explain the low-marriage probabilities. Our results suggest that marriage promotion strategies will have their greatest opportunity among unwed mothers in their early twenties and the fathers of their children, but high rates of multiple partner fertility are expected to reduce the effective of such efforts among African Americans.
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