Determinants of Long-Term Unions: Who Survives the “Seven Year Itch”?

Audrey Light, Ohio State University
Yoshiaki Omori, Yokohama National University

Most studies of union formation and dissolution identify probabilities of union transitions in the next year; they do not reveal the likelihood of forming unions and maintaining them for the long-term. We use NLSY79 data to estimate a series of choice models in which never-married women decide when to cohabit or marry, cohabitors decide when to separate or marry, first-married women decide when to divorce, and women with prior unions advance through similar stages. We use the estimates to simulate women’s union-related outcomes from age 18 to 42, and then predict probabilities of following long-term paths. We find that cohabitation substantially increases the probability of entering and maintaining a long-term union (defined as 8+ years) because the high chance of entry outweighs the low chance of stability. We also find that race and skill affect probabilities of long-term unions, but determinants that can be manipulated by public policy do not.

  See paper

Presented in Session 58: Marriage and the Life Course