Single Moms: The Odds of Marriage

For unwed mothers looking to marry their child's father, the odds are better if the baby's a boy, not a girl. Single mothers are 42 percent more likely to marry the father if the child is a boy. Even without any biological link, unmarried mothers with boys are 11 percent more likely to marry.

Two University of Washington economists, Shelly Lundberg and Elaina Rose examined data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a national survey that has collected economic information on family life since 1967. The researchers looked at information on 600 children born to single mothers.

The researchers speculate that fathers may prefer sons, while single mothers may seek a male role model for their boys. A child's need for a father figure may convince the boyfriend to be part of the family as well, say Lundberg and Ross. Their previous research has found that fathers of boys work more and spend more on their families than that of fathers with girls.

"It doesn't come as a surprise to me," says Ronald Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study and of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut. "Women who have sons may feel that their sons need a male father figure in their lives to help with rearing and discipline."

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The research is published in the May issue of Demography.

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