Advertisement

Demography

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 535–557 | Cite as

The Economic Foundations of Cohabiting Couples’ Union Transitions

  • Patrick Ishizuka
Article

Abstract

In recent decades, cohabitation has become an increasingly important relationship context for U.S. adults and their children, a union status characterized by high levels of instability. To understand why some cohabiting couples marry but others separate, researchers have drawn on theories emphasizing the benefits of specialization, the persistence of the male breadwinner norm, low income as a source of stress and conflict, and rising economic standards associated with marriage (the marriage bar). Because of conflicting evidence and data constraints, however, important theoretical questions remain. This study uses survival analysis with prospective monthly data from nationally representative panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation from 1996–2013 to test alternative theories of how money and work affect whether cohabiting couples marry or separate. Analyses indicate that the economic foundations of cohabiting couples’ union transitions do not lie in economic specialization or only men’s ability to be good providers. Instead, results for marriage support marriage bar theory: adjusting for couples’ absolute earnings, increases in wealth and couples’ earnings relative to a standard associated with marriage strongly predict marriage. For dissolution, couples with higher and more equal earnings are significantly less likely to separate. Findings demonstrate that within-couple earnings equality promotes stability, and between-couple inequalities in economic resources are critical in producing inequalities in couples’ relationship outcomes.

Keywords

Cohabitation Marriage Union dissolution Inequality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research received generous support from the Cornell Population Center and the Office of Population Research. I am grateful to Sara McLanahan, Kelly Musick, Viviana Zelizer, and the editors and anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions.

Supplementary material

13524_2018_651_MOESM1_ESM.docx (35 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 34.9 kb)

References

  1. Avellar, S., & Smock, P. J. (2005). The economic consequences of the dissolution of cohabiting unions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 315–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baughman, R., Dickert-Conlin, S., & Houser, S. (2002). How well can we track cohabitation using the SIPP? A consideration of direct and inferred measures. Demography, 39, 455–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1981). A treatise on the family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S., Landes, E. M., & Michael, R. T. (1977). An economic analysis of marital instability. Journal of Political Economy, 85, 1141–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bertrand, M., Pan, J., & Kamenica, E. (2015). Gender identity and relative income within households. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130, 571–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bitler, M. P., Belbach, J. B., Hoynes, H. W., & Zavodny, M. (2004). The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce. Demography, 41, 213–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bittman, M., England, P., Sayer, L., Folbre, N., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109, 186–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blau, F. D. (1998). Trends in the well-being of American women, 1970–1995. Journal of Economic Literature, 36, 112–165.Google Scholar
  9. Brines, J. (1994). Economic dependency, gender, and the division of labor at home. American Journal of Sociology, 100, 652–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brines, J., & Joyner, K. (1999). The ties that bind: Principles of cohesion in cohabitation and marriage. American Sociological Review, 64, 333–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, S. L. (2000). Union transitions among cohabitors: The significance of relationship assessments and expectations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 833–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, S. L. (2004). Family structure and child well-being: The significance of parental cohabitation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 351–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown, S. L. (2006). Family structure transitions and adolescent well-being. Demography, 43, 447–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bumpass, L., & Lu, H.-H. (2000). Trends in cohabitation and implications for children’s family contexts in the United States. Population Studies, 54, 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bumpass, L. L., & Sweet, J. A. (1989). National estimates of cohabitation. Demography, 26, 615–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burnstein, N. R. (2007). Economic influences on marriage and divorce. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 26, 387–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cancian, M., & Meyer, D. R. (2014). Testing the economic independence hypothesis: The effect of an exogenous increase in child support on subsequent marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 51, 857–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carlson, M., McLanahan, S., & England, P. (2004). Union formation in fragile families. Demography, 41, 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cherlin, A. (1978). Remarriage as an incomplete institution. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 634–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cherlin, A. J. (2004). The deinstitutionalization of American marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 848–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clarkberg, M., Stolzenberg, R. M., & Waite, L. J. (1995). Attitudes, values, and entrance into cohabitational versus marital unions. Social Forces, 74, 609–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coontz, S. (2004). The world historical transformation of marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 974–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Copen, C. E., Daniels, K., & Mosher, W. D. (2013). First premarital cohabitation in the United States: 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (National Health Statistics Reports, No. 64). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  24. Corcoran, M., Danziger, S. K., Kalil, A., & Seefeldt, K. S. (2000). How welfare reform is affecting women’s work. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 241–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Cotter, D., Hermsen, J. M., & Vanneman, R. (2011). The end of the gender revolution? Gender role attitudes from 1977 to 2008. American Journal of Sociology, 117, 259–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. DiPrete, T. A., & Buchmann, C. (2006). Gender-specific trends in the value of education and the emerging gender gap in college completion. Demography, 43, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dixon, R. B. (1978). Late marriage and non-marriage as demographic responses: Are they similar? Population Studies, 32, 449–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Easterlin, R. A. (1980). Birth and fortune: The effects of generation size on personal welfare. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Edin, K., & Kefalas, M. J. (2005). Promises I can keep: Why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  30. Ellwood, D. T., & Jencks, C. (2004). The uneven spread of single-parent families: What do we know? Where do we look for answers? In K. M. Neckerman (Ed.), Social inequality (pp. 3–77). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  31. Esping-Andersen, G., & Billari, F. C. (2015). Re-theorizing family demographics. Population and Development Review, 41, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fine, J. P., & Gray, R. J. (1999). A proportional hazards model for the subdistribution of a competing risk. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 94, 496–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Flood, S., King, M., Ruggles, S., & Warren, J. R. (2015). Integrated public use microdata series, Current Population Survey: Version 4.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  34. Gerson, K. (2011). The unfinished revolution: How a new generation is reshaping family, work, and gender in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Gibson-Davis, C. M., Edin, K., & McLanahan, S. (2005). High hopes, but even higher expectations: The retreat from marriage among low-income couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1301–1312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goldin, C. (2006). The quiet revolution that transformed women’s employment, education, and family. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 96, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Goldin, C. (2014). A grand gender convergence: Its last chapter. American Economic Review, 104, 1091–1119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goldscheider, F., Bernhardt, E., & Lappegård, T. (2015). The gender revolution: A framework for understanding changing family and demographic behavior. Population and Development Review, 41, 207–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goldstein, J. R., & Kenney, C. T. (2001). Marriage delayed or marriage forgone? New cohort forecasts of first marriage for U.S. women. American Sociological Review, 66, 506–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Guzzo, K. B., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2007). Multipartnered fertility among American men. Demography, 44, 583–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hardie, J. H., & Lucas, A. (2010). Economic factors and relationship quality among young couples: Comparing cohabitation and marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 1141–1154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hayford, S. R., & Morgan, S. P. (2008). The quality of retrospective data on cohabitation. Demography, 45, 129–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jacobs, J. A., & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Kalbfleisch, J. D., & Prentice, R. L. (2002). The statistical analysis of failure time data. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kalmijn, M., Loeve, A., & Manting, D. (2007). Income dynamics in couples and the dissolution of marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 44, 159–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kennedy, S., & Bumpass, L. L. (2008). Cohabitation and children’s living arrangements: New estimates from the United States. Demographic Research, 19(article 47), 1663–1692.  https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.47 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kennedy, S., & Fitch, C. A. (2012). Measuring cohabitation and family structure in the United States: Assessing the impact of new data from the Current Population Survey. Demography, 49, 1479–1498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Killewald, A. (2016). Money, work, and marital stability: Assessing change in the gendered determinants of divorce. American Sociological Review, 81, 696–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Killewald, A., & Gough, M. (2013). Does specialization explain marriage penalties and premiums? American Sociological Review, 78, 477–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kuo, J. C., & Raley, R. K. (2016). Diverging patterns of union transition among cohabitors by race/ethnicity and education: Trends and marital intentions in the United States. Demography, 53, 921–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lee, D., & McLanahan, S. (2015). Family structure transitions and child development: Instability, selection, and population heterogeneity. American Sociological Review, 80, 738–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lichter, D. T., Qian, Z., & Mellott, L. M. (2006). Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women. Demography, 43, 223–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lundberg, S., & Pollak, R. A. (2014). Cohabitation and the uneven retreat from marriage in the United States, 1950–2010. In L. P. Boustan, C. Frydman, & R. A. Margo (Eds.), Human capital in history: The American record (pp. 241–272). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  54. Manlove, J., Ryan, S., Wildsmith, E., & Franzetta, K. (2010). The relationship context of nonmarital childbearing in the U.S. Demographic Research, 23(article 22), 615–654.  https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2010.23.22 Google Scholar
  55. Manning, W. D. (2010). Trends in cohabitation: Twenty years of change, 1987–2008 (NCFMR Family Profiles Report No. FP-13-12). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University.Google Scholar
  56. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2005). Measuring and modeling cohabitation: New perspectives from qualitative data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 989–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McCubbin, H. I., & Patterson, J. M. (1983). The family stress process: The double ABCX model of adjustment and adaptation. Marriage and Family Review, 6(1–2), 7–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McLanahan, S. (2004). Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41, 607–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McLanahan, S., & Percheski, C. (2008). Family structure and the reproduction of inequalities. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 257–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. McLanahan, S., Tach, L., & Schneider, D. (2013). The causal effects of father absence. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, 399–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moffitt, R. A., Reville, R., & Winkler, A. E. (1998). Beyond single mothers: Cohabitation and marriage in the AFDC program. Demography, 35, 259–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Munsch, C. L. (2015). Her support, his support: Money, masculinity, and marital infidelity. American Sociological Review, 80, 469–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nock, S. L. (1995). Commitment and dependency in marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 503–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Nock, S. L. (2001). The marriages of equally dependent spouses. Journal of Family Issues, 22, 755–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Oppenheimer, V. K. (1988). A theory of marriage timing. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 563–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Oppenheimer, V. K. (1994). Women’s rising employment and the future of the family in industrial societies. Population and Development Review, 20, 293–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Oppenheimer, V. K. (2003). Cohabitation and marriage during young men’s career development process. Demography, 40, 127–149.Google Scholar
  68. Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Pedulla, D. S., & Thébaud, S. (2015). Can we finish the revolution? Gender, work-family ideals, and institutional constraints. American Sociological Review, 80, 116–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Raftery, A. E. (1995). Bayesian model selection in social research. Sociological Methodology, 25, 111–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ribar, D. C. (2015). Why marriage matters for child wellbeing. Future of Children, 25(2), 11–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rindfuss, R. R., Morgan, S. P., & Offutt, K. (1996). Education and the changing age pattern of American fertility: 1963–1989. Demography, 33, 277–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rindfuss, R. R., & Vanden Heuvel, A. (1990). Cohabitation: A precursor to marriage or an alternative to being single? Population and Development Review, 16, 703–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rogers, S. J. (2004). Dollars, dependency, and divorce: Four perspectives on the role of wives’ income. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 59–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sanchez, L., Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (1998). Sex-specialized or collaborative mate selection? Union transitions among cohabitors. Social Science Research, 27, 280–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sassler, S., & McNally, J. (2003). Cohabiting couples’ economic circumstances and union transitions: A re-examination using multiple imputation methods. Social Science Research, 32, 553–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Sayer, L. C., England, P., Allison, P. D., & Kangas, N. (2011). She left, he left: How employment and satisfaction affect women’s and men’s decisions to leave marriages. American Journal of Sociology, 116, 1982–2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Schieman, S., Glavin, P., & Milkie, M. A. (2009). When work interferes with life: Work-nonwork interference and the influence of work-related demands and resources. American Sociological Review, 74, 966–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Schneider, D. (2011). Wealth and the marital divide. American Journal of Sociology, 117, 627–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Schneider, D. (2012). Gender deviance and household work: The role of occupation. American Journal of Sociology, 117, 1029–1072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Schwartz, C. R., & Gonalons-Pons, P. (2016). Trends in relative earnings and marital dissolution: Are wives who outearn their husbands still more likely to divorce? RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(4), 218–236.Google Scholar
  82. Smock, P. J. (2000). Cohabitation in the United States: An appraisal of research themes, findings, and implications. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Smock, P. J., & Manning, W. D. (1997). Cohabiting partners’ economic circumstances and marriage. Demography, 34, 331–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Smock, P. J., Manning, W. D., & Porter, M. (2005). “Everything’s there except money”: How money shapes decisions to marry among cohabitors. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 680–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Sweeney, M. M. (2002). Two decades of family change: The shifting economic foundations of marriage. American Sociological Review, 67, 132–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tach, L., & Edin, K. (2013). The compositional and institutional sources of union dissolution for married and unmarried parents in the United States. Demography, 50, 1789–1818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tach, L. M., & Eads, A. (2015). Trends in the economic consequences of marital and cohabitation dissolution in the United States. Demography, 52, 401–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Thornton, A., Axinn, W. G., & Xie, Y. (2007). Marriage and cohabitation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tichenor, V. J. (1999). Status and income as gendered resources: The case of marital power. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 638–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Upchurch, D. M., Lillard, L. A., & Panis, C. W. A. (2002). Nonmarital childbearing: Influences of education, marriage, and fertility. Demography, 39, 311–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Waite, L. J. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32, 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Waite, L. J., & Lehrer, E. L. (2003). The benefits from marriage and religion in the United States: A comparative analysis. Population and Development Review, 29, 255–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Watson, T., & McLanahan, S. (2011). Marriage meets the Joneses: Relative income, identity, and marital status. Journal of Human Resources, 46, 482–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Weisshaar, K. (2014). Earnings equality and relationship stability for same-sex and heterosexual couples. Social Forces, 93, 93–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1, 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Willer, R., Rogalin, C. L., Conlon, B., & Wojnowicz, M. T. (2013). Overdoing gender: A test of the masculine overcompensation thesis. American Journal of Sociology, 118, 980–1022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Williams, K., Sassler, S., & Nicholson, L. M. (2008). For better or for worse? The consequences of marriage and cohabitation for single mothers. Social Forces, 86, 1481–1511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wu, Z., & Pollard, M. S. (2000). Economic circumstances and the stability of nonmarital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues, 21, 303–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Yeung, W. J., Linver, M. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). How money matters for young children’s development: Parental investment and family processes. Child Development, 73, 1861–1879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Zelizer, V. A. R. (1997). The social meaning of money. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell Population CenterCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations