Pathways to Fatherhood: Low-Income, Non-Custodial Men's Role in Fertility Decisions

Jennifer M. Augustine, University of Texas at Austin
Timothy Nelson, Northwestern University
Kathryn Edin, University of Pennsylvania

Over the past several decades, nonmarital childbearing rates have risen sharply. This trend has been most prevalent among socially and economic disadvantaged groups. While recent research has cast light upon the many reasons that disadvantaged groups delay (or defer) marriage, thereby increasing the likelihood that a birth will take place outside of marriage, less is understood about motivations for having children outside of marriage. At the same time, men’s (compared to women’s) motivations for having children remain unclear. In this paper, we explore the role that low-income, non-custodial fathers play in the fertility decision process. Using in depth interview data (N = 171) from White, Black, and Hispanic fathers, we analyze fathers’ role in the fertility process at four different levels of intentionality (accidental, unexpected but not accidental, unplanned but not unexpected, planned), and describe the complex interplay between intention, socioeconomic disadvantage, and the circumstances surrounding men’s pathways into fatherhood.

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Presented in Session 131: Household Configurations and Reproductive Life