Almost Cohabiting -- How Much Is Enough?

Jean T. Knab, Princeton University

In the 1990s, there was a push to measure cohabitation in large-scale surveys and incorporate it into analyses about couples and families. However cohabitation was operationalized inconsistently across surveys yielding vastly different estimates of cohabitation rates. The inconsistency in measuring cohabitation is due in part to the different goals of and constraints on individual surveys, but also likely reflects the ambiguity regarding the boundaries and meaning of cohabitation. Most quantitative studies simply use an all-or-nothing measure to differentiate between cohabiting and not cohabiting. But recent qualitative evidence from Manning and Smock suggest that many young couples live together only part of the time, complicating our notion and measurement of cohabitation. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families study to examine how changing the definition of cohabitation (to include or exclude couples living together less than full time, etc.) changes the prevalence, correlates, and outcomes of cohabitors.

  See paper

Presented in Session 35: Cohabitation