Determinants of Long-Term Unions: Who Survives the “Seven Year Itch”?

Light, Audrey; Omori, Yoshiaki
December 2013
Population Research & Policy Review;Dec2013, Vol. 32 Issue 6, p851
Academic Journal
Most studies of union formation focus on short-term probabilities of marrying, cohabiting, or divorcing in the next year. In this study, we take a long-term perspective by considering joint probabilities of marrying or cohabiting by certain ages and maintaining the unions for at least 8, 12, or even 24 years. We use data for female respondents in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to estimate choice models for multiple stages of the union-forming process. We then use the estimated parameters to simulate each woman’s sequence of union transitions from ages 18–46, and use the simulated outcomes to predict probabilities that women with given characteristics follow a variety of long-term paths. We find that a typical, 18 year-old woman with no prior unions has a 22 % chance of cohabiting or marrying within 4 years and maintaining the union for 12+ years; this predicted probability remains steady until the woman nears age 30, when it falls to 17 %. We also find that unions entered via cohabitation contribute significantly to the likelihood of experiencing a long-term union, and that this contribution grows with age and (with age held constant) as women move from first to second unions. This finding reflects the fact that the high probability of entering a cohabiting union more than offsets the relatively low probability of maintaining it for the long-term. Third, the likelihood of forming a union and maintaining it for the long-term is highly sensitive to race, but is largely invariant to factors that can be manipulated by public policy such as divorce laws, welfare benefits, and income tax laws.


Related Articles

  • A QUASI-LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF STUDENTS' ATTITUDES TOWARD COHABITATION. Huang-Hickrod, Lucy Jen; Leonard II, Wilbert M. // International Journal of Sociology of the Family;Jul80, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p281 

    The present article focuses upon student attitudes toward reasons for and against premarital cohabitation. It is a quasi-longitudinal empirical investigation with data collected at a large Midwestern state university from students enrolled in marriage and family classes. The purpose of the...

  • Not-So-Cozy Cohabitation. Witcher, Phyllis H. // World & I;Mar2004, Vol. 19 Issue 3, p34 

    Presents data that refute the notion that cohabitation prepares couples for marriage. Impact of no-fault divorce law in the United States on the attitude of couples toward marriage; Contention that cohabitation begets divorce; Ranking of the U.S. among the countries in the world with the...

  • Prenups: A Plan for Failure or Simply Smart Planning? Bonora, Doris // LawNow;Jan/Feb2010, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p35 

    The article discusses the idea of prenuptial agreements in the legal context. It focuses on marriage and all of the concepts that can be applied to cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples. It also notes the divorce laws in Canada and the cost of divorce actions. It argues that prenuptial...

  • On the Variation of Divorce Risks in Europe: Findings from a Meta-Analysis of European Longitudinal Studies. Wagner, Michael; Weiß, Bernd // European Sociological Review;Dec2006, Vol. 22 Issue 5, p483 

    The aim of this article is to integrate empirical research on divorce risks in Europe and to explain the variation of empirical findings between European countries by the different levels of modernization and differences in the strength of marriage norms. We focus on the effects of premarital...

  • The Price of Partnering: The Role of Economic Well-Being in Young Adults' First Union Experiences. Clarkberg, Marin // Social Forces;Mar99, Vol. 77 Issue 3, p945 

    Drawing on the literature on the links between economic resources and the transition to marriage, this study examines the role of economic well-being in the formation of marital and cohabitational unions. I use event history models with data from a large longitudinal data set of young adults. In...

  • Legal status and the stability of coresidential unions. Teachman, Jay D.; Thomas, Jeffrey; Paasch, Kathleen; Teachman, J D; Thomas, J; Paasch, K // Demography;Nov1991, Vol. 28 Issue 4, p571 

    Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, we examine the effect of the legal status of coresidential unions on the likelihood of dissolution. We find that legal unions are much more stable than nonlegal unions. In addition, current legal status is more...

  • Partnership in Europe; its Variety, Trends and Dissolution. COLEMAN, DAVID // Finnish Yearbook of Population Research;2013, Issue 48, p5 

    Radical changes in living arrangements, in sexual habits and in the position of marriage in Europe have arisen, very unevenly, since the 1960s and in some regions in scarcely more than a decade. Cohabitation before marriage is normal - even universal - in many countries, with the popularity of...

  • Research Note: Analysis of Survival Data with Multiple Causes of Failure A Comparison of Hazard-and Logistic-Regression Models with Application in Demography. Ghilagaber, Gebrenegus // Quality & Quantity;Aug98, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p297 

    The purpose of the paper is to compare results of estimation and inference concerning covariate effects as obtained from two approaches to the analysis of survival data with multiple causes of failure. The first approach involves a dynamic model for the cause-specific hazard rate. The second is...

  • Patterns of entry into cohabitation and marriage among mainland Puerto Rican women. Landale, Nancy S.; Forste, Renata; Landale, N S; Forste, R // Demography;Nov1991, Vol. 28 Issue 4, p587 

    This paper adds to our limited knowledge of racial and ethnic variation in union formation by describing and analyzing the first unions of mainland Puerto Rican women. Retrospective history data show that Puerto Ricans have shared in the post-1970 shift toward cohabitation. Puerto Rican women,...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics