Out-of-Wedlock Fertility, Post-Pregnancy Choices and Contraceptive Usage

Ana Nuevo-Chiquero


This paper examines the evolution of out-of-wedlock conceptions and births for cohorts born in the US from 1955 to 1982 and the role that modern contraception played in these trends. Substantial increases in conception outside of marriage only partially account for the upward trend in illegitimacy. Among those who conceived out-of-wedlock, the incidence of shotgun (post-conception) marriage decreased sharply, as did the incidence of abortion. Contraceptive use and pregnancy planning do not appear to shape the trend in out-of-wedlock conception, but post-conception choices evolved differently for unplanned pregnancies, with a negligible decrease in shotgun marriages. Furthermore, conditional on own use of contraception and planning of the pregnancy, women in "premarital sexual intercourse markets" with high contraceptive use are less likely to give birth out-of-wedlock. The trend in out-of-wedlock motherhood over time is significantly steeper when modern contraceptive use in the woman's premarital sexual intercourse market is accounted for, suggesting that its generalization contributed to moderate the increase in out-of-wedlock motherhood.