The social geography of unmarried cohabitation in the USA, 2007-2011

Ron J. Lesthaeghe, Julián López-Colás, Lisa Neidert

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    © The Author(s) 2016. US studies of marriage and cohabitation have mainly highlighted the social and racial differentials as they were observed in cross-sections, and have as a result essentially focused on the “pattern of disadvantage”. The evolution of such social differentials over time and space reveals that this pattern of disadvantage has clearly persisted, but that it is far from covering the whole story. Historically, there has been a major contribution to the rise of cohabitation by white college students, and later on young white adults with higher education continued to start unions via cohabitation to ever increasing degrees. Only, they seem to move into marriage to a greater extent later on in life than other population segments. Also, the religious affiliation matters greatly: Mormons and evangelical Christians have resisted the current trends. Furthermore this effect is not only operating at the individual but at the contextual level as well. Conversely, even after controls for competing socio-economic explanations, residence in areas (either counties or PUMA-areas) with a Democratic voting pattern is related to higher cohabitation probabilities. And, finally, different legal contexts at the level of States also significantly contributed to the emergence of strong spatial contrasts. Hence, there is a concurrence of several factors shaping the present differentiations, and the rise of secular and liberal attitudes, i.e. the “ethics revolution”, is equally a part of the explanation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCohabitation and Marriage in the Americas: Geo-Historical Legacies and New Trends
    Number of pages30
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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