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Women’s Multipartnered Fertility and the Criminal Justice System

September 2011

Eirik Evenhouse and Siobhán Reilly, Mills College

Download '2011-26 NPC Working Paper.pdf'


This paper explores the relationship between two phenomena that have emerged in the United States: high rates of multipartnered fertility among women and high rates of male involvement with the criminal justice system. We draw our data on mothers from a large, nationally representative survey, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and use 12 separate SIPP panels spanning the 23-year period 1985-2008. Our proxy for male involvement with the criminal justice system is the metropolitan-level arrest rate, computed from FBI Uniform Crime Reports going back to 1980. Controlling for a variety of maternal, state, and metropolitan characteristics, we find a positive correlation between the lagged arrest rate in a mother’s city and the probability that she has children by more than one man. Our estimates of women’s MPF are the first and only ones to be based upon a large, nationally representative sample.

Crime, Incarceration, and the Labor Market, Marriage, Family Formation and Reproductive Issues