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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

The kids are alright: The rise in non-marital births and child well-being Seminar

Social Statistics and Demography
15:00 - 16:00
14 December 2017
Building 58 Room 1023

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Centre for Population Change at .

Event details

A Centre for Population Change seminar

Academics and policy makers in both the US and the UK have long shown an interest in discussing the rise in the number of children born out of wedlock, hypothesizing that it results in bad outcomes for the children, and by extension, society.

Using six decades of US and UK data, this hypothesis is tested by our speaker, Christina Gibson-Davies, by looking at aggregate trends in the non-marital fertility ratio (NMFR) and child well-being. No evidence is found that an increased NMFR is correlated with increases in aggregate adverse outcomes. Instead, the majority of results suggest that as the NMFR has increased, aggregate child outcomes have improved. Data from three British cohort studies is then used: the National Child Development Study (NCDS); the British Cohort Study (BCS) and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), together with US data on birth weight and grade repetition to examine whether the association between marriage and child well-being has diminished over time.

The results of these individual-level analysis suggest that the positive correlations between the NMFR and child well-being for the US and the UK may be driven in part by improved well-being of children born to unmarried parents. Individual-level results do not support the hypothesis that upward trends in aggregate child well-being are being driven by children born to married parents.

Christina concludes that the attention given to the NMFR has likely been overstated, and that given scarce resources, policy makers may wish to direct their attention elsewhere.

Speaker information

Christina Gibson-Davies , Duke University. Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

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