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date: 22 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the interrelationships among poverty rates, inequality, and nonmarital family structures, focusing on households with a never-married parent, usually the mother, or with cohabiting parents. It first considers marriage and fertility patterns around the world and how these patterns exhibit characteristics of the so-called second demographic transition in which marriage and fertility have become increasingly disconnected. It then discusses the reasons why nonmarital families tend to be poorer than marital families and also why the correlation between poverty and nonmarital family structures does not causally explain between- or within-country variation in poverty rates. It also describes some methods for addressing high poverty rates among nonmarital household structures, arguing that policies other than marriage promotion would be far more effective at reducing poverty for nonmarital households. The article concludes with an assessment of some implications of nonmarital fertility for economic inequality.

Keywords: poverty, inequality, nonmarital family structures, cohabiting parents, marriage, fertility, second demographic transition, poverty rates, economic inequality, nonmarital households

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