Title: Economic Dependency and Cohabiting Couples’ Union Transitions
Authors: Jennifer A. Holland and Agnese Vitali
Abstract: The decline of the male breadwinner model and the increasing importance women as income providers has changed partners’ economic dependency. Focusing on heterosexual cohabiting couples in the United States, we investigate the association between partners’ relative earnings and union stability and progression. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (couples = 3,659; couple-years = 10,876) and discrete-time hazard models, we analyze whether partners’ relative earnings is associated with continued cohabitation, marriage and separation, net of demographic, socio-economic and couple characteristics. Results indicate that men’s relative economic position continues to be a key determinant of union stability: female breadwinning couples face a higher risk of union dissolution. At the same time, there is evidence that cohabitation may be a “holding pattern” for both female and male breadwinning couples, suggesting that both men’s and women’s career development may be important for marriage.
Support for the research was provided by the UK Economic and Social Research Council Centre for Population Change and an UK Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders grant (PI Agnese Vitali).