Trends in "Shotgun" and Premarital First Births in the United States: Cohort, Period, and Educational Differences in Premaritally Conceived Births

Paula S. England, Stanford University
Lawrence L. Wu, New York University
Emily F. Shafer, Stanford University

Are yesterday's shotgun births today's nonmarital births? Or do trends in both reflect increases in sexual activity prior to marriage? In this paper, we document trends in shotgun and premarital first births by decomposing trends into age, cohort, and period components, and by estimating educational gradients in these outcomes. We focus on trends in shotgun and nonmarital first births because these outcomes reflect a conception outside of marriage, with the conception in both cases taken to term. We argue that decomposing trends in shotgun births are more complicated than has typically been acknowledged in past studies by the nature of the phenomena, which can be affected by trends and compositional shifts in childlessness, in the timing of first birth or first marriage. We (1) separate cohort from period influences on the age-specific rates, and (2) estimate competing risks for premarital conceptions vs. marriage. We provide speculative interpretations of our results.

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Presented in Session 173: Changes in Union Formation over Time