The State as Marriage Partner of Last Resort: A Labor Market Approach to Single Motherhood in the United States, 1960-1980

55 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2013

See all articles by Michael S. Bernstam

Michael S. Bernstam

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace

Peter L. Swan

University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney; Financial Research Network (FIRN)

Date Written: March 24, 2013

Abstract

This paper develops a labor-market orientated expected utility model to explain the massively high level of non-marital fertility, especially teenage single motherhood in the United States in the period 1960-1980. Labor market regulations reduce, via disemployment, male youth income-earning capacity and thus reduce expected female opportunities on the marriage market. The mandated minimum wage rates together with increased minimum wage coverage are shown to increase non-participation and unemployment among male youths. This produces the high supply of unmarried teenage females who meet the demand for single motherhood generated by restrictive welfare benefits. Male youth joblessness and low incomes increase the relative value of welfare benefits as an alternative female income. The above combination of youth labor market restrictions and the restrictive welfare system with its high regional differentials leads to a failure of the marriage market and to an explosion of out-of-wedlock fertility. The addition of a new preface updates the literature by more than 25 years since the original paper was written and shows the relevance to contemporary debates over welfare reform in Australia, typically a follower-country with respect to welfare policy.

Keywords: single-motherhood, labor-market, teenage women, joblessness, minimum-wage

JEL Classification: I38, J31, J38, J48, H23

Suggested Citation

Bernstam, Michael S. and Swan, Peter Lawrence, The State as Marriage Partner of Last Resort: A Labor Market Approach to Single Motherhood in the United States, 1960-1980 (March 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2256859 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2256859

Michael S. Bernstam

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

Peter Lawrence Swan (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney ( email )

School of Banking and Finance
UNSW Business School
Sydney NSW, NSW 2052
Australia
+61 2 9385 5871 (Phone)
+61 2 9385 6347 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/our-people/peterswan

Financial Research Network (FIRN)

C/- University of Queensland Business School
St Lucia, 4071 Brisbane
Queensland
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.firn.org.au

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
24
Abstract Views
457
PlumX Metrics