School Comes First Then Comes Marriage Then Comes Baby? Racial and Ethnic Variations in the Path to First Birth in the United States

Li Zhu, Arizona State University

This paper relies on 5 waves of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) data, to investigate the family transition beyond adolescence, focusing on post - high school years. Previous research suggests that the delaying effects of education on the timing of first birth varies among adolescents from different racial/ethnic groups (Glick, et al., 2006; Wildsmith and Raley, 2006).Of particular note is the finding that Asian adolescents, both girls and boys have particularly low nonmarital fertility and particularly high rates of school enrollment, compared to other racial/ethnic groups. However, little research has gone beyond educational transitions out of high school to examine the role of subsequent education as a delaying force on first birth. We expect the delaying effects of education on the first birth for Asians is largely due to the delaying effects of education on the timing of marriage because Asians follow the pathway of marriage preceding first birth. We expect to see that after Asian young adults finish their college degrees /enter into job market and get married, their birth rate will catch up to some extent to that of the other racial and ethnic groups. Thus, if we take marriage status as a covariate, the seemingly bigger delaying effects of educations on the timing of first birth will at least diminish.

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Presented in Poster Session 4