Union Transitions of Unmarried Families: What Explains the Differences by Living Arrangement?

Cynthia A. Osborne, Princeton University

This paper uses data from the Fragile Families study to explain why cohabiting parents are almost three times more likely to marry and half as likely to separate as romantically involved parents who do not coreside (referred to as visitors). I analyze the effect the couple’s background characteristics and human capital, and the mother’s reports of attitudes, relationship quality, father’s investment in the child, and marriage expectations have on the differences in union transitions. The results suggest that higher marriage expectations among cohabitors account for most of the difference in marriage, whereas marriage expectations and greater father investment in the child among cohabitors explain the different rates of separation.

Presented in Session 104: Cohabitation