Contemporary Family and Household Dynamics

Home and the Family Cambodia selects_Page_28Marriage rates for young adults have dropped to historically low levels in the US, but many apparently “single” adults are, in fact, in cohabiting, same-sex (non-marital), and/or other types of relationships.  Similarly, many children of “single” parents are raised by two parents.  CCPR affiliates have been at the forefront in identifying and understanding the evolution of marriage and other types of intimate relationships as well as the changing nature of parenthood. Judith Seltzer and colleagues examine the timing and types of first union, fertility behavior in cohabitation, and the stability of first cohabiting unions, finding that most race and ethnic differences in cohabitation behavior can be attributed to socioeconomic differences across groups. Recent work by Mignon Moore on black lesbian families in New York also demonstrates great diversity in the circumstances of same-sex couples raising children.  Using surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant-observation, Moore is currently investigating the effects of racial identity on same-sex desire, union formation, motherhood, and gendered power relations in families headed by two women.

To examine the general process of household decision making and marital stability, Maurizio Mazzocco developed two alternative models of household intertemporal behavior. In both, the decision-making power of each spouse depends on the best outside option available. In the full-efficiency model, only the decision-making power at the time of household formation has an effect on present and future behavior, a good description of the situation in which the cost of marital separation is high.  In the no-commitment model, individual decision-making power in each period affects household decisions, a good characterization of the situation in which the cost of marital separation is low.  Mazzocco’s empirical results for the US strongly favor the no-commitment model, suggesting that changes over time in spouses’ outside options also alter their decision-making power within the relationship.