, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 51-70
Date: 08 Feb 2014

Entering first union: the choice between cohabitation and marriage among women in Italy and Spain

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While in Spain and Italy cohabitation has not acquired the same role that it has had in Northern Europe, in both of these Mediterranean countries cohabitation is no longer a marginal phenomenon. Moreover, the nature of cohabiting couples is diverse. According to the most recent FFS data, first cohabitations constitute a temporary arrangement that usually ends in the formalization of the union (marriage), and within 5 years 28.9 % of first cohabitations in Spain and 51.7 % in Italy were transformed into marriages. Within a Western context of changes in union formation patterns, the study of the choice between marriage and cohabitation as first union is of great significance. Is it possible to identify a shared pattern of union formation in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain? The purpose of this paper is to examine the choice between cohabitation and marriage as first union (timing, incidence and determinants) using a comparative life course approach. For the analysis of the timing and prevalence, cumulative incidence curves are calculated by birth cohorts and regions; while two semiparametric competing-risks models are estimated for the determinants of first partnership formation (one for each country), considering birth cohort, parental separation, educational attainment, employment status, age at leaving the parental home and birth of a child (the last three time-varying) as independent variables.