Testing the Economic Independence Hypothesis: Union Formation Among Single Mothers in Chile

Laura Cuesta, Sarah Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite the increasing proportion of single-mother families, the literature on union formation among unpartnered parents in Latin America is scant. Using a sample from a Chilean longitudinal survey (N = 3,318), we estimated regression models to test associations between single mothers’ economic resources in 2010 and coresidence with the biological father of their children in 2012. We also examined whether these associations differed in subgroups with higher rates of labor market participation. We found that mothers’ paid work was not associated with union formation. Receiving government benefits and living with a parent were associated with lower probability of coresidence with the biological father, even among the most advantaged subgroups. We conclude that in contexts in which most mothers of young children are not doing paid work, economic resources coming from government and extended family may be more consequential than earnings’ potential in influencing single mothers’ union formation behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-123
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Latin America
  • economic issues
  • family policy
  • independence hypothesis
  • single parents


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