Marriage Selectivity and Stepfamily Formation

Gabriela Sanchez-Soto, University of Texas at San Antonio
Jeannie Hahl, University of Texas at San Antonio

Although child outcomes specific to stepfamilies have been well researched, the literature is not resolved on the process by which these families are formed, nor which persons are likely to enter these unions. Determining which men are prone to become stepfathers is paramount to understanding conditions that promote both negative and positive outcomes in stepchildren. We examine two potential explanations of stepfamily formation: 1)marriage selectivity and 2)marital search theory. These perspectives have been invoked in discussions of stepfamily formation, yet the literature has not sufficiently controlled for the marriage market conditions essential to each perspective. Using the first two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), we estimate the impact of local marriage market conditions on the likelihood of men entering a stepfamily union. Preliminary findings do not unequivocally support the marriage selectivity perspective. In follow-up, we will incorporate characteristic-specific sex ratios of the local marriage market.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Marriage, Unions, Families and Households