Serial Cohabitation and Family Formation

Daniel T. Lichter, Cornell University
Richard N. Turner, Cornell University

This paper provides national estimates of serial cohabitation using data from the 1995 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Serial cohabitors are defined as having cohabited with more than one partner and who often have children with different partners. This paper has several objectives. First, we provide estimates of the percentage of ever-serially-cohabited men and women among five-year age cohorts. Specifically, we document inter-cohort changes in single-instance and serial cohabitation. Second, we provide new estimates of the duration, instability and disposition of cohabiting unions. How long do they last and how do they end (i.e., marriage or dissolution)? Specifically, we examine inter-cohort shifts in (serial) cohabitation as a stepping-stone to marriage. Third, we examine linkages between serial cohabitation and fertility, including multiple-partner fertility. We argue that the rise in multiple-partner fertility is both cause and consequence of the recent rise in temporary co-residential relationships and family instability.

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Presented in Session 167: Union Instability