Mental Illness as a Barrier to Marriage among Urban Unmarried Mothers

Julien O. Teitler, Columbia University
Nancy E. Reichman, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

We use augmented data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing survey to (1) investigate the prevalence of diagnosed mental illness among mothers giving birth out-of-wedlock; and (2) estimate the effects of mental illness on marriage and childbearing using proportional hazard models. Measures of mental illness are obtained from the survey respondents' prenatal medical records. We use these data along with the rich survey data to estimate marriage and fertility models that control for city fixed effects, baseline levels of human capital (including physical health), and parents’ baseline cohabitation status. Preliminary results indicate that over 10% of unmarried mothers have been diagnosed with a mental illness prior to their child’s birth, and that in this population mental illness is strongly associated with delays in marriage but has no effect on fertility.

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Presented in Session 27: The Demography of Mental Health