Is the Ring the Thing?

Research Report

Is the Ring the Thing?

Child Well-being and the Transition from Cohabitation to Marriage
August 20, 2007


This paper assesses the extent to which children living in cohabiting families would benefit if their mothers were to marry. Children whose cohabiting mothers marry have higher math and reading scores than children whose mothers either continue to cohabit or who dissolve their cohabiting relationships; marriage is uncorrelated with behavioral outcomes of these children. Interestingly, much of the difference between the test scores of children whose cohabiting mothers marry and those who do not actually predates the marriage. This suggests that the benefits of marriage for children living with cohabiting couples are smaller than they initially appear.

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