Influences of Family Structure and Partner Characteristics on Mothers’ Employment Trajectories

Christine Percheski, Princeton University

Few studies have compared the employment patterns of new mothers by their marital and relationship statuses. Different patterns in employment by relationship status are likely given the sizable differences in mothers' access to resources such as other family income and child care help as well as differences in human capital and in preferences for work versus homemaking. Additionally, little is known about how unmarried partners may affect mothers’ employment. In this paper, I examine the employment patterns of married and unmarried mothers in the five years after a birth using growth curve models and data from the Fragile Families Study. I find that married, cohabiting and non-resident mothers work a similar number of weeks per year despite significant differences in human capital and social support. All else equal, unmarried mothers work more. Considering fathers’ characteristics adds only marginally to our understanding of mothers’ employment.

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Presented in Session 53: Work and Family