Who Doesn't Cohabit?: Cohort Changes in Pre-Marital Behavior

Amanda J. Miller, Ohio State University
Sharon Sassler, Cornell University
Fenaba Addo, Cornell University

In just a few decades, cohabitation has gone from being a selective practice to normative behavior for young Americans. This paper uses data from the NSFH Waves 1 and 3 to examine changes in marriage patterns between the late 1980’s and 2001. Smaller shares of young adults were married at Wave 3, but substantially more who were first lived with their spouse. Gender and race differentials in the shares marrying without cohabiting decreased, as did variation by educational attainment. Accounting for cohort change reveals that at Wave 3 Blacks were significantly less likely to wed without first cohabiting, as were those growing up in single-parent families. Respondents with college degrees were nearly twice as likely to wed without cohabiting as their high school educated counterparts who married. Notwithstanding increases across the board in cohabitation, our results suggest growing social class disparities in who does not cohabit prior to marriage.

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