we live in a world in which family breakdown is more the norm than the exception. until the mid-1940s, marriage was looked at as a contract far more binding than it is now. at the time, society had a clear view of what was acceptable and this was generally based on what worked well for the family. one of the issues that marriage as an institution face is the fact that we’ve become increasingly more approving of choosing to be in long term relationships with partners without getting married. according to the research on premarital cohabitation and marital stability researchers like booth and johnson, demaris and rao found that the issue with this approach to marriage is that it is leading to more divorces when avoiding divorce is the reason for cohabiting in the first place.
the chances of divorce for couples living together before marriage are found to be 50 percent according to recent statistics. scholars and social commentators frequently argue that people are expecting more from their marriage than in the past. building a marriage that can help spouses meet their higher needs is more difficult than building a marriage that can help them meet their lower needs. this greater emphasis on relationship processes that require mutual insight means that investing time and energy in the relationship is much more important today than in the past. as a result, a level of investment in the relationship that would have been sufficient to meet spouses’ marital expectations in earlier eras is frequently insufficient today. seeking help is a sign of courage.
in this study, we explored the link between low-income mothers’ employment characteristics and union formation by advancing a theoretically informed conceptual model that encompasses contemporary work characteristics and caregiving responsibilities of low-income women. the first is whether employment status is related to marriage and cohabitation for low-income single mothers. the lack of consensus in the empirical literature suggests that a broader set of employment characteristics needs to be considered in exploring the effects of employment status on union formation among low-income single mothers. a measure for welfare status was included in our model since the receipt of cash benefits may serve as a disincentive to marriage for single mothers (moffitt, 2000). we categorized respondents in the three-city study as having nonstandard schedules based on their responses to interview questions pertaining to whether they were separated from their children due to employment and the timing of the separation on the day before the interview. for the multivariate analysis, we estimated two multinomial logit models to test whether mothers’ employment and work schedules were associated with lower odds of moving into a cohabitating relationship or marriage by wave 2 compared to remaining single.
examining mothers’ employment characteristics by union status at wave 2, we found distinct differences in the work patterns and nonstandard schedules of mothers who formed marriages compared to those who entered cohabitation or remained single. mothers’ nonemployment significantly decreased the likelihood of marriage compared to employment in a standard work schedule. once we control for other economic considerations, we find that working a standard schedule increases the probability of mothers’ marriage over the 16-month period in comparison to mothers who did not working at all over this period. in addition to nonstandard work schedules, the results show that low-income mothers’ perceptions of economic stability also factor into their likelihood of marriage but not of cohabitation. these findings were robust across all the models we tested and are similar to those from other multi-site analyses of union formation that identify important city differences in their analyses (sigle-rushton & mclanahan, 2002). our findings suggest that nonstandard work schedules at night or on the weekends in comparison to standard schedules may act as a barrier to marriage. linking marriage education participants to these kinds of asset building, financial education, child care, and job training programs can help to enhance economic security, which may result in more couples being able to realize their marriage aspirations and fulfill the work and family goals of welfare reform.
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