DOI: 10.1177/000312240006500405 ISSN:

Routes to Children's Economic Recovery after Divorce: Are Cohabitation and Remarriage Equivalent?

Donna Ruane Morrison, Amy Ritualo
  • Sociology and Political Science

Are maternal cohabitation and remarriage equivalent routes to the economic recovery of children and their mothers following parental divorce and separation? Unlike previous studies that have been primarily cross-sectional in design, this study uses panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Supplement to make both absolute and relative comparisons of potential economic returns. Also investigated is how income from spouses and partners is combined with income from other sources to support children, and the extent to which economic hardship over time relates to mothers’ union experiences. Findings show that while in absolute terms, remarriage is economically more advantageous than cohabitation, cohabitation and remarriage are equivalent in their ability to restore family income to prior levels. Cohabiting mothers start off in a weaker economic position prior to divorce, however, and continue to rely on income from employment and AFDC to a greater extent than do remarried mothers. Over time, cohabitation, even when it results in a stable union, is a comparatively poor mechanism for maintaining economic recovery for the children of divorce. The extent of economic difficulties experienced by children whose mothers “unstably” remarry is also demonstrated.

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