Children’s Economic Well-Being in Cohabiting Parent Families: An Update and Extension

Wendy D. Manning, Bowling Green State University
Susan L. Brown, Bowling Green State University

More children are spending time in cohabiting parent families; however, our understanding of children's well-being in this family type is limited. We examine the economic circumstances of children in cohabiting families and assess how cohabiting partners’ income influences children's financial well-being. We extend prior work by providing updated assessments of well-being; employing detailed measures of family structure that include biological relationship of children to adults; examining racial and ethnic variations; and investigating four indicators of well-being: poverty, public assistance, food insecurity, and housing insecurity. We use the 1999 National Survey of American Families, which includes data on over 34,000 children, including 965 children in cohabiting two biological parent families and 1,047 children in cohabiting stepparent families. Estimates of child poverty in cohabiting families vary dramatically from about 10 percent to nearly 40 percent depending on the type of cohabiting family and whether we employ legal or social definitions of family in calculating poverty status.

Presented in Session 104: Cohabitation