THE GROWTH OF NONMARRIAGE AMONG U.S. WOMEN, 1954-1983 (MARRIAGE, FAMILY, HOUSEHOLDS, UNITED STATES)
The secular decrease in the proportion of United States women who are married, not separated, has contributed to the unprecedented growth of female-headed households, and has fueled both popular and academic debates about the nature of family change. This dissertation argues that the recent transformation of the family must be understood as the outcome of internal gender relations of domination in the family, in a context of rapidly changing labor market conditions and state policy. The dissertation extensively critiques Gary Becker's models of altruism and marriage, and develops an alternative model of women's economic independence and marital choice, in which the rigidity of internal family relations is a critical feature motivating women to be unmarried. The model is supported by time-series regressions on levels and first differences over the period 1955-1983, using Census Bureau data. Finally, the model implies that a dual policy objective of promoting women's equality and facilitating long-term family cohesion can be achieved if internal family relations adjust to women's new economic bargaining power.