, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 127–149 | Cite as

Cohabiting and marriage during young men’s career-development process

  • Valerie Kincade Oppenheimer


Using recently released cohabitation data for the male sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, first interviewed in 1979, I conducted multinomial discrete-time event-history analyses of how young men’s career-development process affects both the formation and the dissolution of cohabiting unions. For a substantial proportion of young men, cohabitation seemed to represent an adaptive strategy during a period of career immaturity, whereas marriage was a far more likely outcome for both stably employed cohabitors and noncohabitors alike. Earnings positively affected the entry into either a cohabiting or marital union but exhibited a strong threshold effect. Once the men were in cohabiting unions, however, earnings had little effect on the odds of marrying. Men with better long-run socioeconomic prospects were far more likely to marry from either the noncohabiting or cohabiting state, and this was particularly true for blacks.


High School Graduate High School Dropout Career Maturity Marriage Formation Marital Union 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Becker, G.S. 1981. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, S.L. 2000. “Union Transition Among Cohabitors: The Significance of Relationship Assessments and Expectations.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62:833–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, S.L. and A. Booth. 1996. “Cohabitation Versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58:668–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bumpass, L.L. and H. Lu. 2000. “Trends in Cohabitation and Implications for Children’s Family Contexts in the United States.” Population Studies 54:29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bumpass, L.L. and J.A. Sweet. 1989. “National Estimates of Cohabitation.” Demography 26: 615–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bumpass, L.L., J.A. Sweet, and A.J. Cherlin. 1991. “The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53:913–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Casper, L.M. and S.M. Bianchi. 2001. “Cohabitation.” Chap. 2 in Continuity and Change in the American Family. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Center for Human Resource Research. 1992. NLS Handbook: 1992. Center for Human Resource Research, Ohio State University.Google Scholar
  9. Cherlin, A.J. 1980. “Postponing Marriage: The Influence of Young Women’s Work Expectations.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 42:355–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarkberg, M. 1999. “The Price of Partnering: The Role of Economic Well-being in Young Adults’ First Union Experiences.” Social Forces 77:945–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarkberg, M., R.M. Stolzenberg, and L.J. Waite. 1995. “Attitudes, Values, and Entrance Into Cohabitational Versus Marital Unions.” Social Forces 74:609–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldscheider, F.K. and L.J. Waite. 1986. “Sex Differences in the Entry Into Marriage.” American Journal of Sociology 92:91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goldstein, J.R. and C.T. Kenney. 2001. “Marriage Delayed or Marriage Forgone? New Cohort Forecasts of First Marriage for U.S. Women.” American Sociological Review 66:506–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gryn, T.A., F.L. Mott, and D. Burchett-Patel. 2000. “The Relationship Trajectories for a Contemporary Cohort of Men in Early Middle Age: Evidence From the NLSY79.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles, March 23–25 .Google Scholar
  15. Hill, M.S. and W.J. Yeung. 1997. “How Have Alterations in the Structure of Opportunity Affected Transitions to Adulthood?” Pp. 3–39 in Transitions to Adulthood in a Changing Economy: No Work, No Family, No Future?, edited by A. Booth, A.C. Crouter, and M.J. Shanahan. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, W.R. 1978. “A Theory of Job Shopping.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 92:261–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Juhn, C., K. Murphy, and B. Pierce. 1993. “Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill.” Journal of Political Economy 101:410–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lesthaeghe, R. 1995. “The Second Demographic Transition in Western Countries: An Interpretation.” Pp. 17–62 in Gender and Family Change in Industrialized Countries, edited by K.O. Mason and A. Jensen. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  19. Levy, F. 1998. The New Dollars and Dreams: American Incomes and Economic Change. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Lichter, D.T., G.K. McLaughlin, G. Kephart, and D.J. Landry. 1992. “Race and the Retreat From Marriage: A Shortage of Marriageable Men?” American Sociological Review 57:781–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lloyd, K.M. and S.J. South. 1996. “Contextual Influences on Young Men’s Transition to First Marriage.” Social Forces 74:1097–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Manning, W. and P.J. Smock. 1995. “Why Marry? Race and the Transition to Marriage Among Cohabitors.” Demography 32:509–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moffitt, R.A., R. Reville, and A.E. Winkler. 1998. “Beyond Single Mothers: Cohabitation and Marriage in the AFDC Program.” Demography 35:259–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oppenheimer, V.K. 1988. “A Theory of Marriage Timing.” American Journal of Sociology 94:563–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. —. 1994. “Women’s Rising Employment and the Future of the Family in Industrial Societies.” Population and Development Review 20:293–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Oppenheimer, V.K., H. Blossfeld, and A. Wackerow. 1995. “New Developments in Family Formation and Women’s Improvement in Educational Attainment in the United States.” Pp. 150–73 in Family Formation in Modern Societies and the New Role of Women, edited by H. Blossfeld. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  27. Oppenheimer, V.K., M. Kalmijn, and N. Lim. 1997. “Men’s Career Development and Marriage Timing During a Period of Rising Inequality.” Demography 34:311–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Oppenheimer, V.K. and V. Lew. 1995. “Marriage Formation in the Eighties: How Important Was Women’s Economic Independence?” Pp. 105–38 in Gender and Family Change in Industrialized Countries, edited by K.O. Mason and A. Jensen. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  29. Oppenheimer, V.K. and A. Lewin. 1997. “Career Development and Marriage Formation in a Period of Rising Inequality: Who Is at Risk? What Are Their Prospects?” Pp. 187–225 in Transitions to Adulthood in a Changing Economy: No Work, No Family, No Future?, edited by A. Booth, A.C. Crouter, and M.J. Shanahan. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  30. Qian, Z. and S. Preston. 1993. “Changes in American Marriage, 1972-87: Availability Conditions and Forces of Attraction by Age and Education.” American Sociological Review 58:482–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sanchez, L., W.D. Manning, and P.J. Smock. 1998. “Sex-Specialized or Collaborative Mate Selection? Union Transitions Among Cohabitors.” Social Science Research 27:280–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Seltzer, J.A. 2000. “Families Formed Outside of Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62:1247–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Skinner, K.B., S.J. Bahr, D.R. Crane, and V.R.A. Call. 2002. “Cohabitation, Marriage, and Remarriage.” Journal of Family Issues 23:74–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smock, P.J. and W.D. Manning. 1997. “Cohabiting Partners’ Economic Circumstances and Marriage.” Demography 34:331–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sweet, J.A. and L.L. Bumpass. 1992. “Young Adults’ Views on Marriage and Cohabitation.” Pp. 143–70 in The Changing American Family, edited by S.J. South and S.E. Tolnay. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  36. Teachman, J.D., K.A. Polonko, and G.K. Leigh. 1987. “Marital Timing: Race and Sex Comparisons.” Social Forces 66:239–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thornton, A. 1989. “Changing Attitudes Toward Separation and Divorce.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 51:873–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thornton, A., W.G. Axinn, and D.H. Hill. 1992. “Reciprocal Effects of Religiosity, Cohabitation, and Marriage.” American Journal of Sociology 98:628–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Topel, R.H. and M. Ward. 1992. “Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 107:441–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1993. “Poverty in the United States: 1992.” Current Population Reports, Series P-60-185. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  41. —. 1994. “Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1993.” Current Population Reports, Series P-20-478. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  42. —. 1998. “Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1998 (Update).” Current Population Reports, Series P-20-514. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  43. Willis, R.J. and R.T. Michael. 1994. “Innovation in Family Formation: Evidence on Cohabitation in the United States.” Pp. 10–45 in The Family, the Market and the State in Aging Societies, edited by J. Ermisch and N. Ogawa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  44. Wu, Z. and M.S. Pollard. 2000. “Economic Circumstances and the Stability of Nonmarital Cohabitation.” Journal of Family Issues 21:303–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Kincade Oppenheimer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles

Personalised recommendations