How Do Marriage Market Conditions Affect Entrance into Cohabitation vs. Marriage?

Karen B. Guzzo, University of Pennsylvania

Widening racial and socioeconomic gaps in marriage rates have received a great deal of attention in recent years, focusing on the availability of marriageable men in the local marriage market. At the same time, cohabitation has increased in prevalence and has played a role in declining marriage rates. This paper extends marriage market arguments to the formation of both cohabiting and marital unions and the choice between union types, using contextual data at the Labor Market Area (LMA) level linked to the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). I find that the best measure of availability is a broad but still age-restricted sex ratio adjusted for marital status. The sex ratio is only weakly related to overall union formation, but it is significantly and positively related to the likelihood of marrying over either remaining single or cohabiting. Cohabitation and marriage do not appear to be substitutable.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Union Formation and Dissolution and Parents' Living Arrangements