How Does Premarital Cohabitation Affect Trajectories of Marital Quality?

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Harvard University
Laura M. Tach, Harvard University

Given that the modal marriage experience today starts with premarital cohabitation, we explore the consequences of this pathway into marriage for subsequent marital quality and stability. We use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to test whether the trajectories of marital quality are significantly different for premarital cohabitors and non-cohabitors, as well as what impact marital quality trajectories have on marital stability across the two groups. We also examine whether cohabitors' distinct marital experiences are driven by having a premarital birth, rather than cohabitation. Our study improves upon existing work by examining changes in marital quality within couples over time and by controlling for time invariant, unobserved differences between premarital cohabitors and those who enter marriage directly.

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Presented in Session 124: Family Background, Cohabitation, and Marriage