The Effects of Single Parenthood on Child Development: Does Maternal Education Matter?

Alison Jacknowitz, American University
Lucie Schmidt, Williams College

Nonmarital childbearing has increased dramatically in recent decades. A great deal of attention has been paid to this increase, in part because of concerns that having a single mother negatively affects children’s well-being. The effect of single parenthood on child outcomes may vary systematically by the educational attainment of the mother. Research suggests that single parenthood may be a different phenomenon among highly educated women than among less educated women. Specifically, educated women become single parents significantly later in life than less educated women, which may improve both investments in prenatal care, as well as the quality of available resources. In this project, we use the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort to answer several important questions. First, do the effects of single motherhood on investments in prenatal care and birth outcomes vary by the mother’s educational attainment? Second, to what extent are these differences correlated with differences in economic resources, maternal behaviors, and pregnancy intention?

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Presented in Session 91: Family Dynamics, Race/Ethnicity, and Early Child Wellbeing