Premarital cohabitation and marital disruption among white, black, and Mexican American women


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    Department of Sociology, California Center for Population Research, University of California, Los Angeles, 264 Haines Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (

  • Authors names are listed alphabetically; each author contributed equally to this manuscript.

Department of Sociology, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, 54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854 (


We use data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (N = 4,547) to investigate racial and ethnic differences in risk factors for marital disruption, with a particular emphasis on premarital cohabitation. We find that the nature and strength of the estimated effects of several risk factors for disruption differ across groups. In particular, premarital cohabitation is positively associated with subsequent marital disruption among non-Hispanic White women but not among non-Hispanic Black or Mexican American women. Little of the observed gaps between groups in levels of disruption, however, appears to be attributable to differences in premarital cohabitation. In addition to improving our understanding of marital disruption, this research contributes to a growing literature emphasizing heterogeneity across groups in the meaning and function of cohabitation.