For Fertility, Marriage Still Matters

New Report by the Institute for Family Studies and Wheatley Institute

Charlottesville, Virginia, Oct. 06, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Date: October 6, 2022
Contact: Michael Toscano

(Charlottesville, VA)—While public opinion polls show that fewer people believe parents need to be married to procreate, a new report from the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) and the Wheatley Institute finds that marriage still matters for fertility. In fact, marital behaviors remain so closely tied to fertility behaviors that it is virtually impossible to promote marriage or fertility alone without also influencing the other. 

The report, Marriage Still Matters: Demonstrating the Link Between Marriage and Fertility in the 21st Century, is written by IFS research fellow Lyman Stone and Wheatley Institute fellow Spencer L. James. Stone and James examine tens of thousands of women’s fertility histories across nearly a century of social change to answer two fundamental questions: (1) Does the likelihood that women have their first child increase after they get married? and (2) Does the likelihood that women enter their first marriage increase after they have their first child?

Among the report’s key findings: 

  • Worldwide, the likelihood of having a first birth always rises dramatically after marriage. Since the 1980s, marital birth rates have been fairly stable, even as premarital birth rates have fallen a bit, so marriage has become more predictive of fertility, not less.
  • Single mothers are somewhat likelier to subsequently marry than in the past, and indeed, becoming a single mother increases the odds of getting married versus remaining childless.  
  • Even in high-income countries with high rates of nonmarital fertility, women who are married still have significantly more children than those who are not.

“Despite the continued rise in nonmarital childbearing, and contrary to widespread belief that marriage is not necessary for bearing and raising children, the fundamental link between the formalized stable, pair bonding of adults and human reproduction remains robust,” said co-author Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies.

“By some measures, it is even stronger than in the past," Stone continued. "Across all societies, we are seeing that it is ultimately through committed and long-term relationships—usually formalized through marriage—that childrearing is most efficient.”

To read to the full report, go here
For further information, contact: Michael Toscano


Probability of First Birth Before or After First Marriage in the U.S.