CPC was delighted that Professor Christina Gibson-Davis visited to give a seminar on her work on non-marital births and child well-being.
Christina is an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, with a secondary appointment in sociology. Her research interests centre around social and economic differences in family formation patterns. Her current research focuses on the how divergent patterns of family formation affect economic inequality.
Christina's seminar discussed how academics and policy makers in both the US and the UK have long shown an interest in discussing the rise in the number of children born out of wedlock, hypothesizing that it results in bad outcomes for the children, and by extension, society.
Using six decades of US and UK data, this hypothesis has been tested by Christina, who has examined aggregate trends in the non-marital fertility ratio (NMFR) and child well-being. No evidence is found that an increased NMFR is correlated with increases in aggregate adverse outcomes. Instead, the majority of results suggest that as the NMFR has increased, aggregate child outcomes have improved. Data from three British cohort studies is then used: the National Child Development Study (NCDS); the British Cohort Study (BCS) and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), together with US data on birth weight and grade repetition to examine whether the association between marriage and child well-being has diminished over time.
The results of these individual-level analysis suggest that the positive correlations between the NMFR and child well-being for the US and the UK may be driven in part by improved well-being of children born to unmarried parents. Individual-level results do not support the hypothesis that upward trends in aggregate child well-being are being driven by children born to married parents.
Christina concludes that the attention given to the NMFR has likely been overstated, and that given scarce resources, policy makers may wish to direct their attention elsewhere.
A video of the seminar slides including Christina's narration is available on the CPC YouTube channel:
To keep up to date with all CPC's news and events, follow us on Twitter @CPCPopulation