Women who have children out of an extramarital relationship are less likely to marry when compared to other single women of their age. But even if they do marry, their husbands tend to be less well-matched, in terms of age and educational background.
The data for the study was collected from a population of 102, 722 women aged 18 to 34. The study showed that single mothers were less likely than childless women to marry a man with at least some college education, suggesting that an improvement in their economic prospects is very unlikely.
The results point out that an unmarried mother was more likely to marry a man who was significantly older - at least six years older - than she. Overall, the results show that women who bear children out of wedlock do not fare well in the marriage market.
Unwed mothers are disadvantaged economically. They are far more likely to live below the poverty line than married women. Over one-third of female-headed families with children live in poverty compared to only 6 percent of married couples with children.
"Most unwed mothers want to have a satisfying marriage and family, but have significant obstacles to finding a good mate," according to the researchers.
As a result, federal and state governments need to consider carefully regarding the design of marriage promotion programs. Such programs may be helpful, but only if they tackle the issue of out-of-wedlock childbearing and address the economic disadvantages of these women and their potential partners.
Government efforts to reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing and provide employment and education opportunities for low-income men and women may have the indirect and long-term benefit of encouraging better matched and therefore more healthy and stable marriages.