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Young adults’ marriage decisions are influenced by the job market


In areas with more middle-skill jobs, young adults are more likely to choose marriage before having their first child. And in areas with fewer of these jobs, they’re more likely to have their first child out of wedlock.

We study how equality and inequality impact the daily lives of families, particularly within the context of first births. We’ve found that income inequality in the areas where families live is correlated with whether they have children outside the framework of marriage. Income inequality is directly related to the availability of “middle-skill” jobs, those that are accessible to someone with a high school education and pay above-poverty wages. Our research suggests that the availability of these types of jobs affects the decisions that young adults make about starting families.

Decent jobs make people more prone to marry

We looked at a national sample of 9,000 young adults whose information is publicly available from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 Cohort. They were first interviewed in 1997 when they were 12 to 16 years old and have been interviewed every year since. We used data through 2011, when they were 26 to 30 years old.

The probability that young adults (ages 18 to 30) will have a child outside marriage is highest in their early to mid-twenties. We wanted to know whether members of the study cohort got married before having their first child.

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