Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010

38 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2013

See all articles by Shelly J. Lundberg

Shelly J. Lundberg

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University of Bergen - Department of Economics

Robert A. Pollak

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2013

Abstract

Since 1950 the sources of the gains from marriage have changed radically. As the educational attainment of women overtook and surpassed that of men and the ratio of men's to women's wage rates fell, traditional patterns of gender specialization in work weakened. The primary source of the gains to marriage shifted from the production of household services and commodities to investment in children. For some, these changes meant that marriage was no longer worth the costs of limited independence and potential mismatch.Cohabitation became an acceptable living arrangement for all groups, but cohabitation serves different functions among different groups. The poor and less educated are much more likely to rear children in cohabitating relationships. The college educated typically cohabit before marriage, but they marry before conceiving children and their marriages are relatively stable.We argue that different patterns of childrearing are the key to understanding class differences in marriage and parenthood, not an unintended by-product of it. Marriage is the commitment mechanism that supports high levels of investment in children and is hence more valuable for parents adopting a high-investment strategy for their children.

Suggested Citation

Lundberg, Shelly J. and Pollak, Robert A., Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010 (September 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19413, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2322012

Shelly J. Lundberg (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of Bergen - Department of Economics ( email )

Fosswinckelsgt. 6
N-5007 Bergen, 5007
Norway

Robert A. Pollak

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States
314-935-4918 (Phone)
314-935-6359 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
29
Abstract Views
368
PlumX Metrics