Sons May Increase the Value of Marriage for Men
May 9, 2003
Women who bear children outside of marriage are more likely to marry if they have a son, and when they do marry they tend to marry sooner, according to a study being published next week in the journal Demography.
Mining a database launched in 1968 of thousands of U.S. households, economists Shelly Lundberg and Elaina Rose of the University of Washington - Seattle tracked the mothers of 600 children born out of wedlock. (In one year alone, 1990, there were 1.17 million out-of-wedlock births in the United States.) They found that, in general, having a child lowers a woman's likelihood of marrying. However:
- An unmarried mother is 42 percent more likely to marry the father if the child is a boy than a girl.
- Mothers of sons have a clear edge: 21.6 percent of them eventually walked down the aisle with the biological father, while only 15.6 percent of the mothers of daughters did.
- The gender gap is smaller for mothers marrying a man who is not the father of her child (57 percent compared with 51 percent) -- but there is still an effect.
- Of the single mothers who eventually married, those with sons tied the knot with a man other than the father when their child was, on average, 3.4 years old.
- Mothers of daughters waited an average 4.6 years -- but at every age, mothers of boys are 35 percent to 40 percent more likely to marry than mothers of girls.
This is the first (albeit small) study showing a child-gender gap in marriage rates for single mothers, but its findings are hardly an anomaly. To the contrary. They support a growing body of knowledge about the effects of a child's gender on paternal behavior. For men, it seems, sons increase the value of a marriage and how much they'll invest in it.
Source: Sharon Begley, "Single Mothers of Sons More Likely To Marry Than Mothers of Girls," Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2003.
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