Initial Marriage Plans and Current Cohabitors’ Expectations of Marriage

Karen B. Guzzo, Lafayette College

Using a new dataset that includes both measures of initial marriage plans and current expectations of marriage, this paper examines what factors influence whether a cohabitation begins with an engagement or definite plans to marry and how initial plans are related to expectations of marriage. Those who began cohabiting with initial marriage plans are much more optimistic about their chances of marrying than those without such plans, and among those with initial marriage plans, virtually no socioeconomic or past family formation characteristics affect their expectations of marriage. Among those without initial marriage plans, however, prior union experiences and the presence of both shared children and children from a prior union influence expectations of marriage. The results suggest that the expectations of marriage among couples with stronger commitments at the start of cohabiting are less influenced by potential barriers to marriage than those who did not have a strong commitment.

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Presented in Session 88: Beyond Cohabitation: Living Together and Living Apart