PARC Working Paper Series

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Harknett, Kristen. 2008. "Mate Availability and Unmarried Parent Relationships." PARC Working Paper Series, WPS 08-03.


Theoretically, a shortage of males in a local marriage market may influence the formation, quality, and trajectory of unmarried parent relationships. To test these hypotheses, I combine city-level sex ratio data from the U.S. Census with microdata on unmarried couples who recently had a child from the Fragile Families study. A shortage of men in a marriage market is associated with lower relationship quality for unmarried parents. Male shortages are associated with lower rates of marriage following a nonmarital birth, and this is in part because of the mediating influence of relationship quality. A shortage of men is not significantly related to the economic quality of male, nonmarital childbearing partners.


Shortage of males, Marriage market, US Census, Unmarried couples, Fragile Families study, Nonmarital birth



Date Posted: 05 August 2008