Why do poor men have children? fertility intentions among low-income unmarried U.S. fathers

Jennifer March Augustine, Timothy Nelson, Kathryn Edin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Over the past several decades, nonmarital childbearing rates have risen sharply, especially among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Recent research suggests that disadvantaged Americans may defer or delay marriage in part because of perceived economic barriers. Yet, childbearing is also costly. Few studies have examined low-income parents' motivations for having children in a context of socioeconomic disadvantage. This study deploys qualitative data drawn from repeated, in-depth interviews with a heterogeneous sample of low-income, noncustodial fathers (N = 171) in which men describe in rich detail the circumstances surrounding the conceptions of each of their children and characterize their fertility intentions. The authors find that "planned" and "unplanned" pregnancies are at either end of a continuum of intentionality and that the vast majority of pregnancies are in intermediate categories along that continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-117
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Disadvantage
  • Fatherhood
  • Fertility decisions
  • Nonmarital childbearing
  • Planned pregnancy
  • Poverty
  • Unplanned pregnancy


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