Two Decades of Stability and Change in Age at First Union Formation

Wendy D. Manning, Bowling Green State University
Susan L. Brown, Bowling Green State University
Krista Payne, Bowling Green State University

The landscape of union formation in the United States has been shifting; Americans are now marrying at the highest ages on record and the majority of young adults have cohabited. Yet, little attention has been paid to the timing of cohabitation relative to marriage. Using four cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth we examine the timing of marriage, cohabitation, and unions over a twenty year time span from the mid1980s (1984-1988) to the late 2000s (2006-2010. As the age at first marriage has climbed, the median age at cohabitation has remained stable. The changes in the timing of union formation have been similar for Hispanic, White and Black women. The age at first marriage has increased more rapidly for the least educated creating an educational convergence in the median age at marriage, while an educational divide in the timing of cohabitation and union formation persists.

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Presented in Session 120: Trends and Variability in Unions