Cover image for Out-of-wedlock births : the United States in comparative perspective
Out-of-wedlock births : the United States in comparative perspective
Abrahamson, Mark.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1998.
Physical Description:
viii, 172 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1460 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV700.5 .A27 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Abrahamson focuses on the dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births that occurred in the United States during the last half of the 20th century. He provides the most current demographic data, and summarizes the findings in a nontechnical manner made more meaningful by references to the lives of actual people.

He also includes detailed case studies of how out-of-wedlock births increased in rural Essex, England around 1600, in Madrid, Spain around 1800, and in Jamaica in the mid-20th century. A theoretical overview summarizes the patterns exhibited in the case studies and in the contemporary United States. He concludes with an examination of the role of welfare in the United States and the prospects for current welfare reform efforts to succeed in decreasing out-of-wedlock births. This survey will be of interest to scholars, students of sociology, anthropology, and social work, and readers interested in current social issues.

Author Notes

Mark Abrahamson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Abrahamson examines the sociodemographic history of out-of-wedlock births in the US, Essex County, England (1590-1625), Madrid, Spain (1760-1800), and Jamaica, West Indies (1950-1985). He first considers links between sex and reproduction, biological and social paternity, marriage and legitimacy, and legitimacy and inheritance. The author discusses data sources (census, vital statistics, and longitudinal survey) and their biases, defines nonmarital rate and ratio, presents trends and selected differentials, and identifies choices that lead to nonmarital birth. Chapters 4-6 present non-US cases examining changes in norms on sexual intercourse, household formation, and wedlock and economic trends tied to rise and fall in marriages and nonmarital births. Those who were propertied had resources to marry, form households, and provide for offspring; those without resources eschewed stable unions and paternal roles. Good times decreased nonmarital births; poor times increased them. Abrahamson offers several theoretical explanations for rise and fall in nonmarital births. He concludes with a brief history of welfare and welfare reform in the US. Chapter endnotes. An easy, nontechnical read, with references appropriate for general readers and undergraduates. D.W. Hastings; University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Part 1 Background and the Contemporary United Statesp. 1
1. Marriage and Parenthoodp. 3
2. U.S. Data and Ratesp. 19
3. Nonmarital Births: Who, How, and Whenp. 39
Part 2 Comparative Case Studiesp. 63
4. County of Essex, England, 1590-1625p. 65
5. Madrid, Spain, 1760-1800p. 85
6. Jamaica, West Indies, 1950-1985p. 101
Part 3 Some Conclusions about the United Statesp. 121
7. A Theoretical Overviewp. 123
8. Welfarep. 143
Suggestions for Further Readingp. 165
Indexp. 167