Kelly Musick
Associate Professor

Web Bio Page

Current Activities

Current Research Activities

Musick's research has focused on changes in marriage, cohabitation, and childbearing and their implications for adults, children, and - more broadly - processes of social stratification.  In one line of research, she uses the intendedness of pregnancies to shed light on the meaning of nonmarital childbearing and cohabitation.  Cohabitation is found to increase the chances of intended childbearing outside of marriage, suggesting that, for some, cohabitation may be an acceptable setting to have and care for children.  A second line of research looks closely at the benefits of marriage for adults and children, paying particular attention to differences between marriage and cohabitation and variation across marriages.  Musick finds striking similarities in associations between marriage, cohabitation, and indicators of adult well-being; moreover, where there are differences, many dissipate over time.  She finds that children tend to fare better living with two married parents, but not when their parents frequently argue or fight.  Finally, a third line of research considers the intergenerational inheritance of poverty and family structure and how it plays into population-level trends over time.  Studies of social mobility in sociology and economics tend to emphasize the opportunities of individuals as they relate to labor market rewards.  Musick, examining the transmission of poverty and family structure from mothers to daughters, focuses on the interdependence of socioeconomic well-being and the organization of families.  This work concludes that while there are strong intergenerational links in poverty and family structure, mobility rates are high enough to have little effect on trends in poverty and single-parent families over time.

Ongoing research sets fertility and its correlates in a life course perspective using longitudinal data.  Its overarching aim is to understand the evolving relationship between education and fertility in the context of class-based changes in work and family across time and place.  Women consistently “underachieve” when it comes to meeting their stated fertility desires, particularly at the higher end of the education distribution.  Why this is the case remains an empirical puzzle.  Scholarship on completed fertility has waned over the past few decades in favor of more detailed examinations of individual factors influencing its timing and social context.  Traditional economic models, often used to describe women's fertility decisions, are increasingly inadequate in the face of changes in women's roles at home and at work.  Musick uses an approach that marries individual modeling and aggregate-level simulation to address, first, whether the education gap in completed fertility has narrowed over historical time and, second, what intervenes between expected and achieved fertility as women age.


Biographical Statement

Kelly Musick is Associate Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University.  She received her M.P.A. in economics and public policy from Princeton University in 1996 and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000.  She taught for several years at the University of Southern California and joined the Cornell faculty in 2008. 

Musick studies contemporary family patterns with an emphasis on how they relate to social inequality and the well-being of family members.  Her work has been supported by a K01 Mentored Scientist Award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and it has been published in leading journals in sociology and population studies.  She has taught classes in family demography, inequality, social statistics, and research methods at the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Musick won a teaching award from the University of Southern California for integrating hands-on community experience into her coursework, and she continues to use service-learning in her teaching at Cornell.


family demography, marriage, fertility, social class, inequality

Courses, Websites, Pubs

Courses Taught

PAM 2150 Research Methods
PAM 4470 Families and Social Inequality
PAM 6280 Family Demography

Selected Publications

Musick, Kelly and Ann Meier. Forthcoming. “Are Both Parents Always Better Than One? Parental Conflict and Young Adult Well-Being.” Social Science Research. Also available as CCPR Working Paper No. 2008-022, University of California, Los Angeles.

Musick, Kelly, Paula England, Sarah Edgington, and Nicole Kangas. 2009. “Education Differences in Intended and Unintended Fertility.” Social Forces 88(2):543-72.

Wu, Lawrence L. and Kelly Musick. 2008. “Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following a First Birth.”  Population Research and Policy Review 27(6):713-727. [paper

Musick, Kelly, Judith A. Seltzer, and Christine R. Schwartz. 2008. “Neighborhood Norms and Substance Use Among Teens.” Social Science Research 37(1):138-155. [paper]

Musick, Kelly. 2007. “Cohabitation, Nonmarital Childbearing, and the Marriage Process.” Demographic Research 16(9):249-286. [paper]

Musick, Kelly and Robert D. Mare. 2006. “Recent Trends in the Inheritance of Poverty and Family Structure.” Social Science Research 35(2):471-499. [paper]

Musick, Kelly and Robert D. Mare. 2004. “Family Structure, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Reproduction of Poverty: Evidence for Increasing Polarization?” Demography 41(4):629-648. [paper]

Musick, Kelly. 2002. “Planned and Unplanned Childbearing Among Unmarried Women.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64(4):915-929. [paper]