2005 October 30 Sunday
Single Mothers Have Poorer Marriage Prospects

Nothing surprising here.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Women who have children outside of marriage are less likely than other single women to marry, and when they do marry, their husbands tend to be less well-matched, according to a new study.

The results show that the odds that unwed mothers marry rather than cohabit are about 30 percent lower than those of childless single women.

When they do marry, mothers are more likely to have husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of childless women.

“It's more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well,” said Zhenchao Qian, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

The results suggest that efforts by the federal government and states to promote marriage among young, poor Americans need to do more to prevent out-of-wedlock childbearing, Qian said. He conducted the study with Leanna Mellott, graduate student in sociology at Ohio State, and Daniel Lichter, professor at Cornell University .

I bet those single childless women are seen as better catches on average even before considering their lack of children. Part of their poorer marriage prospects stem from the fact that women with illegitimate children tend to be dumber, less educated, and lower wage earners on average. Still, most men see existing children as a liability when looking at a single women. So these results are at least partially due to that simple fact.

For example, the study showed that single mothers were less likely than childless women to marry a man with at least some college education. That suggests unwed mothers are unlikely to improve their economic prospects through marriage, she said, because potential husbands are less likely to have opportunities for good-paying jobs.

That is not entirely true. Even if their husband earns low wages those wages would be added to the wages of the woman. Also, a second parent in the household would provide extra labor for child care so that each parent could more easily manage to go to work and still have the kids looked after. Sometimes that is accomplished by having the two parents work different times of the day and days of the week.

In addition, a white woman who had children outside of marriage was more likely to marry a man who was significantly older – at least six years older – than she. That wasn't the case for Black and Hispanic women, but only because they were less likely than whites to be married at all, Qian said.

“Our analysis suggests that Blacks and Hispanics may be less likely to marry or cohabit because they face shortages of potential spouses,” he said. “If they had been married or living with someone, they would likely have husbands or partners much older than themselves.”

Of course, part of the problem for most of these women who have children out of wedlock is that even if they didn't have illegitimate babies their marital prospects would still be bleak. Still, illegitimate children do make their lives and their prospects even poorer.

The United States as a whole would be much better off in the long run if reproduction outside of marriage became as stigmatized and punished as it used to be in the early half of the 20th century. We all pay for illegitimate births in higher taxes, higher crime, and in other ways. We'd be better off if single women had fewer children and had those children much later. At the same time, we'd be better off of smarter married women had more children. This sort of talk is taboo in the mainstream media. But that taboo does not make the facts any less true.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 30 09:53 AM  Human Nature

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 11:29 AM:

Soon there will be proposals on the table for tax reform. Perhaps the per child deduction should be higher for married couples. Is that even a viable option, politically? Maybe if it invovled increasing the deduction 2-fold, and 2.5-fold for married couples.

John S Bolton said at October 31, 2005 2:42 AM:

The welfare society tries to create traps of this kind, deliberately and maliciously, in order to build up a clentele of deliverable votes. It is not natural to vote for an increase in aggression, the impetus to do so has to be built up artificially.

crush41 said at November 1, 2005 7:22 AM:

The child tax credit and exemptions should be regressive rather than progressive. It sounds counterintuitive to increase the credit as AGI increases, but encouraging the wealthy (intelligent) to have more children and the impoverished (dullards) to have less children actually closes the wealth gap, which is the putative purpose of the progressive tax system in the first place. Bill Gates having ten children means each child is only inheriting $6 billion instead of one getting $60 billion. Conversely, a working class family with a modest 401(k) retirement and assets can still provide well for one or two children, but more fecundity is putting the kids in a tough spot.

Currently, the child credit begins phasing out at $110,000 AGI (for MFJ), and dependency exemptions begin phaseout at $145,950. It should start phasing in at some threshold of skilled or professional income.

Jennifer said at September 7, 2010 1:13 PM:

This article is ridiculous. The author of it obviously does not have a very good vocabulary. I have never seen an article before this one that would use a descriptive term such as "dumber" when describing a group of people, such a description shows the utter lack of education of the writer and also his hostility towards single mothers. What reason would a person have to be hostile???? Maybe a single mother he was interested in rejected him or something of the sort. I do not believe that any study was conducted or any statistics were reviewed in the preparation of this article. I find this whole site to be disreputable for allowing such an illiterate article to be published. I personally know single mothers who simply have their pick of men who have very good educations and are in the same age range. I know single childless women who receive no interest from the opposite sex or that only receive the interest of men who take advantage of them, live off of them and steal from them. I think the single childless woman in actuality make desperate decisions because their biological clocks are ticking away and they do not have enough of a backbone to raise a child on their own. There are many great people in the world who were raised by single mothers, including the president of the United States who lacks for nothing. I imagine the segment of the population who found anything useful from this article are very low mentality people, possibly even from countries where women have no rights at all and are subject to arranged marriage or severe punishment from "society". This article was finalized by saying " we'd be better off if smarter married women had more children" and I will finalize my comment by saying "we'd be better off if smarter authors with proper vocabularies and time spent on research wrote articles".

Rachelle said at October 1, 2010 11:07 PM:

Figures that this article was written by a man, whom knows nothing about what it is like to be a mother in the first place. And what a sexist pig. Is he stuck in the 1950's? What an asshole.

Uncontaminated said at October 4, 2011 7:11 PM:

This article is correct ! I as a single man would never want to marry a single women with a Bastard Child. Why would any good single man get involved with a sexually comtaminated women ?

Heather said at December 21, 2011 7:20 PM:

@"Uncontaminated": I am not sure how a child would contaminate a woman. Maybe you come from a third world country where women tell you they are virgins and get surgery to make you beleive them, or maybe you are actually a pedafile, referring to a woman as contaminated would indicate one of the two or even more likely BOTH. I am sure that NO woman, either with or without children would like to be around a a sicko like you. I am sure you could never trust yourself around children anyways, you may start to view them as pure and do something horrible to them. Someone like you should be jailed or institutionalized.

McNeil said at December 23, 2011 1:22 PM:

Single mothers do have poorer marriage prospects, generally speaking. However there will always be a broken someone that be good for an unfinished otherone.

Heather said at January 14, 2012 12:58 AM:

@McNeil: you must be another pedafile to use terms such as broken or unfinished. At the end if the day, the fact if the matter is that a woman with beautiful looks, charm, intelligence, successful and a sense of humor will attract more men than women who are lacking. There are single mothers who are a beautiful jewel. There are single women w/o child who are comparable to cow poop......

McNeil said at January 14, 2012 2:58 PM:

Heather my dear, I think you have an obsession with the term pedafile because you use it a lot and out of context. I wonder why. Is it your subconscious speaking, or just a repressed pedofile instinct?

What I meant by "broken" and "unfinished" means that there will always be an "imperfect" someone for another "imperfect" otherone. Or a "not-ideal" one for another "not-so-great-either" one.

Many men -since you know very little about men- do not look for virginity when they want to marry, first because there's not much more of that left; and second, because we know that virginity is not a guarantee for fidelity. However many men who luckily find a virgin woman to marry, somehow feel that she stayed a virgin out of a faithfulness sentiment to her future husband whoever he might be. Now that privilege would be legendary for any man's pride!

Furthermore, no man loves another man's children; not really, even if they show kindness and affection to them. Don't try to understand it; it's a men's thing and we can't really help it, and he who tells you otherwise is lying.

If you are a single woman with kids, well, good luck in getting a loving man; but know that in order to get him, you will have to yield a lot in many regards.
If you are a happily married woman and your husband cheats on you once, you should forgive him, otherwise you will have a broken family. However, don't think that he will forgive you if you cheat on him, even if it's only once. He just won't be able, unless he's got gay tendencies.
If you are a single teenager, well, just disregard all my "sexist pig" views; you'll just have to learn things the hard way.

What Randall posted here about Single Mothers Have Poorer Marriage Prospects, is true, and I also learned this from a woman. Are you considering insulting her too? Bring it honey!

Randall Parker said at January 16, 2012 2:49 PM:


Think about it: "a woman with beautiful looks, charm, intelligence, successful and a sense of humor" who has kids is going to be less attractive to a guy than "a woman with beautiful looks, charm, intelligence, successful and a sense of humor" who does not have kids.

But of course most women aren't beautiful. Charm is not common either. Success, not so much. Also, "a woman with beautiful looks, charm, intelligence, successful and a sense of humor" is far less likely to get dumped by a man than a woman lacking these attributes.

Heather said at February 17, 2012 6:03 AM:

@McNeil: My mother was/is a beautiful woman. She was a a Wilhelmina model in fact. Other women never looked like my mother, she had so much beauty, a beautiful smile and so much charm in just the wink of her eye, she also is caring and went on to be a nurse with advanced degrees in (MSN), I do not say these things about her because she is my mother, it is simply a fact, growing up people told me how gorgeous my "older sister" was. When I was 3 years old my mother did marry a man who was not your "blue collar worker", unless you call a Stanford grad attorney that, did not have children already and was only 4 years her senior. He went on to adopt me. It hurts my feelings that you say he did not love me and I am sure that there are some real men as opposed to cave men mentality that may challenge you on that one, but that is not the point we are speaking about here right now, and I doubt a real man would even read such a low mentality article. Maybe you should run for office and try to pass a law that no infertile men should ever be allowed to adopt children because they are incapable of loving them.

At this day in age when the average woman looks like a pig, can not decorate or keep a house up, can't cook much more than hamburger helper, can not hold a conversation or know anything at all about the world around them, it is a tough market. There are many men who will choose women like my mother who are a rare gem and may have a little girl in tow over these piggies running around. And I guess there also cavemen who will pick the fat woman without a personality who says she is a virgin, and who knows if she really is at the end of the day, neither I or any of my friends bled..... If the pick is between two women who are equal in looks, education, charm, etc. And one has a child and one does not, I will not argue with you that even a real man will pick the childless one. Besides my mother I know examples if other women who married very well and had children, they also were not the average woman though.

I do not have children and I am very happily single, I am completely disgusted though by the expanding waisteline and the type of moron airheads that you men have to choose from. Have fun and good luck, you will have to yeild alot these days too, cupcake.

Heather said at February 17, 2012 6:30 AM:

@Randall Parker: no argument with you.

McNeil said at February 17, 2012 2:47 PM:

So what's the argument all about, then? I can see you finally got it! Randall's top heading runs: "Single Mothers Have Poorer Marriage Prospects", with which I agree and you also seem to agree, as I quote you: "I will not argue with you that even a real man will pick the childless one."

I rest my case.

Randall Parker said at February 19, 2012 11:36 AM:


What you say here reminds me of a conversation I once had with a former Ford agency model I used to study with in college:

At this day in age when the average woman looks like a pig...

Here's what I don't get: Why so much frumpy dressing? My friend the former model and I would walk across campus and she'd point out women in sweatshirts and other unappealing clothing. Well dressed women have become rare. Obesity has become common. And, yes, not much effort on their part to develop their minds.

Occasionally I meet Eastern European women who are impressive thinkers. I don't meet Eastern European women very often. But they seem to do more intellectual development than American women. Though this could be a selection effect due to the (techie) contexts where I meet them.

Heather said at February 19, 2012 10:41 PM:

@McNeil: you talk full of hatred and have issues, go find some big fat pig and settle down, you have no case to rest, just alot of time on your hands, like I guess all "incomplete" people do. It is none of your business what I talk to someone else who is rational.

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