Men's mass imprisonment and race differences in women's family formation behaviors
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The purpose of this dissertation is to provide a better understanding of race differences in women’s family formation behaviors, including non-marital birth and marriage. This research addresses three aims using data from various sources. The first aim is to examine the demographic factors that contribute to racial differences in non-marital fertility rates. The second research aim is to investigate how black men’s incarceration (admission rate, release rate, and conditional release rate from/to prisons) is related to black women’s non-marital fertility rate at the county level from 1985 to 2000. The last research aim is to examine how men’s incarceration (admission rate, release rate, and conditional release rate from/to prisons) is associated with women’s transition to first marriage and non-marital birth, and how this association differs by women’s race. To examine the first research aim, I employed a decomposition analysis and found that sexual activity and post-conception marriage no longer contribute to racial differences in non-marital fertility. Instead, the pregnancy rate among sexually active single (not cohabiting) women is the largest contributor to race-ethnic variation in non-marital fertility rates. More importantly, I find that contraceptive use patterns explain the majority of the race-ethnic differences in pregnancy rates. To pursue the second research aim, I used a fixed effects model and found that changes in black men’s incarceration are positively associated with changes in black women’s non-marital fertility rate between 1995 and 2000, even after adjusting for an extensive set of controls. Lastly, building on this finding, I also examined the relationship between men’s incarceration and women’s transition to first marriage and non-marital birth using a discrete time hazard model. The results indicate that county-level men’s incarceration is negatively associated with women’s transition to first marriage, even net of family background, individual women’s SES, and other county characteristics. Although county-level men’s incarceration contributes to the explanation of lower rates of transition to first marriage for women, it does not fully explain racial differences in marriage. Unlike marriage, women’s transition to first non-marital birth is not significantly affected by county-level men’s incarceration, net of women’s SES and family background. Altogether, this study updated our knowledge about the relative importance of marriage to racial differences in non-marital fertility and better explained racial differences in family formation behaviors, including non-marital fertility and marriage, by linking them with men’s incarceration.