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Financial Integration and Relationship Transitions of Young Adult Cohabiters


Despite increasing rates of pre-marital cohabitation, the majority of research on household financial practices in the United States has focused on married couples. This study explored ways young adult cohabiters (N = 691) financially combined their lives and the associations with subsequent relationship outcomes. Results indicated cohabiters were intertwining credit histories and bank accounts, and acquiring assets such as purchasing homes together. Sharing a mortgage was associated with an increased likelihood of marriage, whereas joint credit card accounts increased the odds of dissolution. Cohabiters with an intent to marry were much more likely to start integrating their finances prior to marriage. This study sheds light on the heterogeneous ways that a recent cohort of young adult couples manages their finances and navigates relationships.

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  1. NLSY79-Children.

  2. There is one exception, the ten states that permit common law marriages: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Colombia) (Cornell Law).

  3. Community property laws only recognize marital unions. There are currently nine community property states in the US: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin; Alaska requires both partners opt-in (IRS).

  4. There was a 2012 wave of data, however, only 88 of the 340 still cohabiting with their partner in 2010 were also interviewed in the 2012. Such high attrition makes incorporating this information into the analysis prohibitive.


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Correspondence to Fenaba R. Addo.

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Addo, F.R. Financial Integration and Relationship Transitions of Young Adult Cohabiters. J Fam Econ Iss 38, 84–99 (2017).

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  • Cohabitation
  • Debt
  • Investment
  • Marital intent
  • Pooling
  • Young adult