Creating an 'American' Marriage Pattern: Ethnic, Generational, and Cohort Variation in Union Formation in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Sharon Sassler, Ohio State University
Michael Cardella, Ohio State University

In the early 1900s, white ethnic Americans exhibited disparate marriage patterns that greatly concerned social commentators. Yet by the end the twentieth century, patterns of union formation among whites ethnics had apparently converged. This paper examines whether white ethnics assumed the nuptiality tempo of the native-stock population, focusing on generational and period effects. We use data from the 1960 Census IPUMS to obtain information on cohorts born between 1901 and 1930. Event history analysis enables us to explore ethnic and generational patterns of entrance into first marriage. We next assess period effects on marriage timing. Results indicate that among white ethnics marriage timing shifted across generations to more closely approximate the union formation patterns of native-stock whites; nonetheless, significant ethnic differences remained. Furthermore, period effects counteract any observable ethnic convergence. Results are discussed in light of their meaning for assimilation and theories of union formation.

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Presented in Session 167: The Family in Historical Perspective