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Fragile Families and the Reproduction of Poverty

Author(s): McLanahan, Sara

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Abstract: In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that non-marital childbearing and marital dissolution were undermining the progress of African Americans. I argue that what Moynihan identified as a race-specific problem in the 1960s has now become a class-based phenomena as well. Using data from a new birth cohort study, I show that unmarried parents come from much more disadvantaged populations than married parents. I further argue that non-marital childbearing reproduces class and racial disparities through its association with partnership instability and multi-partnered fertility. These processes increase in maternal stress and mental health problems, reduce the quality of mothers’ parenting, reduce paternal investments, and ultimately lead to poor outcomes in children. Finally, by spreading fathers’ contributions across multiple households, partnership instability and multi-partnered fertility undermine the importance of individual fathers’ contributions of time and money which is likely to affect the future marriage expectations of both sons and daughters.
Publication Date: Jan-2009
Electronic Publication Date: Jan-2009
Citation: McLanahan, Sara. (2009). Fragile Families and the Reproduction of Poverty. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621 (1), 111 - 131. doi:10.1177/0002716208324862
DOI: doi:10.1177/0002716208324862
ISSN: 0002-7162
EISSN: 1552-3349
Pages: 111 - 131
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Version: Author's manuscript

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