Young Women’s Attitudes towards Marriage and Childbearing by Race: The Problem of Abstract Survey Questions

Calvina Ellerbe, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

There has been growing consensus that attitudes cannot help explain racial differences in marriage formation behavior. This paper finds that the way in which survey questions are presented to respondents alters their responses suggesting that we have been unable to find race differences in attitudes with regard to marriage because of this factor. I go on to assess racial differences in attitudes towards family formation using more personally relevant questions. I found that on average the preferred age for childbearing was younger than the preferred age for marriage among African American women while White young women preferred to marry before childbearing. When asked about the most important aspect of family formation for their own lives, Black women consistently viewed marriage as less important than childbearing. White women viewed marriage as the most important aspect of family formation.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Data and Methods/Applied Demography/ Spatial Demography/ Demography of Crime