Commitment and the Modern Union: Assessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability

Neil G. Bennett, Ann Klimas Blanc, David E. Bloom

NBER Working Paper No. 2416
Issued in October 1987
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

In recent years, the incidence of premarital cohabitation has increased dramatically in many countries of Western Europe and in the United States. As cohabitation becomes a more common experience, it is increasingly important to understand the links between cohabitation and other steps in the process of family formation and dissolution. We focus on the relationship between pre- marital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability, and analyze data from the 1981 Women in Sweden survey using a hazards model approach. Our results indicate that women who premaritally cohabit have almost 80 percent higher marital dissolution rates than those who do not cohabit. Women who cohabit for over three years prior to marriage have over 50 percent higher dissolution rates than women who cohabit for shorter durations. Last, cohabitors and non-cohabitors whose marriages have remained intact for eight years appear to have identical dissolution rates after that time. In addition, we provide evidence that strongly suggests a weaker commitment, on the part of those who cohabit premaritally, to the institution of marriage.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2416

Published: American Sociological Review, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 127-138, February 1988.

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