Racial, Ethnic, and Nativity Differences in Cohabitation in the United States

Kate H. Choi, University of California, Los Angeles

Cohabitation rates have risen dramatically in recent decades for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, yet significant variation in patterns of union formation and dissolution persist. Mexican immigrants also differ from U.S.-born Mexican Americans in the high value they place on marriage. The significance of belief systems highlights the importance of both cultural and economic factors for explaining group differences in the experience of cohabitation. This paper provides new evidence on how cohabitation varies for native-born whites, African Americans, and native-born and immigrant Mexican Americans. We use data from the 1995 and 2002 National Surveys of Family Growth to describe the formation of cohabiting unions, whether couples have children in cohabiting relationships, and whether cohabiting couples marry or dissolve their union. We interpret our findings in light of debates about the meaning of nonmarital cohabitation and about immigrant assimilation and incorporation.

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Presented in Poster Session 1