Generational Change in Pre-Marital Behavior
Sharon Sassler, Cornell University
Fenaba Addo, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Pre-marital cohabitation has changed from a selective practice to normative behavior for young Americans. We use data from Waves 1 and 3 of the National Survey of Families and Households to investigate changes in pre-marital behavior, focusing on a cohort of parents and their adult children (n = 741). We explore two potential explanations for the rise in premarital cohabitation: attitudinal shifts and compositional change in the married population. Within a generation, the proportion who married directly decreased dramatically. We do not find much convergence between social class groups among the Wave 3 respondents, suggesting that the rise in premarital cohabitation was not mainly attributable to attitudinal liberalization linked to behavioral change. Compositional change in the married population accounts for only about one-fifth of the increase in premarital cohabitation. Our findings suggest that despite growing prevalence, important social class distinctions in the likelihood of direct marriage remain and have widened.
Presented in Poster Session 6