The economic consequences of the dissolution of cohabiting unions

Authors


  • *

    Department of Sociology and Population Studies Center, The Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, P.O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248.

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 600 Maryland Avenue SW, Suite 550, Washington, DC 20024-2512 (savellar@mathematica-mpr.com).

Abstract

Although the economic effects of divorce have been well studied, a similar exploration of cohabitation has not been conducted. For this analysis, we use a sample from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (N = 2,372) documenting changes in economic well-being at the end of a cohabiting relationship and comparing these results to a sample of divorced respondents. After dissolution, formerly cohabiting men's economic standing declines moderately, whereas formerly cohabiting women's declines much more precipitously, leaving a substantial proportion of women in poverty. This effect is particularly pronounced for African American and Hispanic women. Though the end of the relationship does reinforce gender stratification, it is also an “equalizer” between married and cohabiting women, leaving them in strikingly similar economic positions.

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