Sex, Culture, Marriage, and Childbearing: Sexual Revolutions through the 20th Century in the United States

Nathanael Lauster, University of Minnesota
Rebecca Upton, DePauw University

In this paper, we argue for the existence of two separate sexual revolutions in the 20th Century U.S. We employ both anthropological and sociological perspectives on cultural change to explore the causes of these sexual revolutions. Using census data collected in the IPUMS files, we construct empirical measurements of these sexual revolutions and their redefinition of the relationship between childbearing and marriage. The percent of wives without children and percent of mothers never married serve as our measurements of these sexual revolutions. We test our initial hypotheses about the causes and progress of these sexual revolutions. Implications of our findings are discussed, both with respect to understanding the causes of sexual revolutions in the United States, and understanding the role of culture in demographic research.

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