Poverty and the living arrangements of unmarried mothers: a dynamic perspective
Matthijs Kalmijn, Tilburg University
Christiaan Monden, Tilburg University
Recent American studies have suggested that women who have a birth outside of marriage are more often living in poverty. We replicate this result for the Netherlands and subsequently provide a comprehensive analysis of the dynamics of the living arrangements of these mothers. Our first goal is to describe the relationship transitions that unmarried women experience in the first five years after the birth of their first child. Unmarried mothers may improve their situation by making transitions from being alone to having a partner or from turning a cohabiting union into marriage, but they may also experience negative changes, such as the breakup of a cohabiting relationship. Our second goal is to examine the role of income in these transitions. In other words, what is the effect of income on the chances of entering cohabitation or marriage and what is the income effect on the chances of separation, given cohabitation? The underlying aim is to explore a possible accumulation of problems. Low-income mothers may not only be more likely to have a child out of wedlock, they may also be more likely to experience a separation after becoming a mother when they cohabit, and they may be less likely to find a partner when they are alone. We answer these questions by analyzing tax record data from the Netherlands (i.e., the Income Panel Study [IPO]). The IPO contains annual information for about 115 thousand persons for the period between 1989 and 2000. The IPO is an excellent source of information for a number of reasons: (a) it contains reliable longitudinal income information for each year, (b) it has a large sample, resulting in a substantial number of women who experienced a first birth out of wedlock (over 5.000), and (c) it has almost no panel attrition.