A Cornell University study suggests unwed mothers are significantly less likely to marry and more likely to cohabit than women without children.

And Daniel Lichter, director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, said if such women marry, their husbands are more likely to have poor job prospects.

Lichter said the findings suggest unwed mothers are less likely than other women to improve their socioeconomic status through marriage.

We find women who bear children outside of marriage are at a considerable disadvantage in the marriage market, he said. Both the likelihood of marriage and the quality of marital partners are adversely affected by out-of-wedlock childbearing.

Lichter and two colleagues from Ohio State University — Associate Professor of Sociology Zhenchao Qian and graduate student Leanna Mellott — analyzed 1980-1995 Current Population Survey data on 102,722 women, ages 18 to 34. They found 5,136 were cohabiting at the time of the survey, and 16,064 had married during the previous two years.

Out-of-wedlock births accounted for one-third of all U.S. births in 2003.

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