A Tale of Two Economies: Children’s Experiences in Cohabiting Families before and after the Turn of the New Century

Deborah Roempke Graefe, Pennsylvania State University

Children’s experiences in cohabiting families are compared for the periods 1996-1999, a time of economic growth, and 2001-2003, during national economic downturn. The 1996 and 2001 Panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation each provide detailed socio-demographic and economic information for around 40,000 households. When appropriately weighted, the subsample of children from these households is nationally representative of the non-institutionalized population of U.S. children under age 19 during each period. Family member and parent figure identifiers are used to determine families headed by unmarried parents. Data permit identifying cases of parent serial cohabitation, as well as the biological relatedness of parent figures to each child. SIPP provides monthly data on family composition, income, and welfare program participation, as well as on parent figures’ education, employment, earnings, and marital status. Patterns of family structure stability and economic well being over 3-year observation windows are compared for the two economic periods, by race and Hispanicity.

Presented in Poster Session 5: Union Formation and Dissolution, Fertility, Family and Well-being