The Social Worlds of Cohabiters and Married Individuals

Jonathan Lui, University of California, Irvine

While previous research has compared cohabitation to marriage on a number of dimensions, less attention is given to exploring differences in their social worlds –that is, the people that surround individuals in these unions. A comparison of co-presence patterns between cohabiters and married individuals sheds light on differences in the nature and function of the two relationships. Pooling data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) from 2003 to 2013, this study finds that cohabiting couples spend more time together than their married counterparts. Further investigation reveals cohabiters’ time together is sensitive to time availability, the number of children in the household, and their age. Cohabiting individuals also spend more time with non-family members, with and without their partner, than married individuals do. These findings provide some evidence that cohabitation is used to test marital compatibility. Additionally, results suggest that relationships, in general, take individuals away from their kin networks.

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 Presented in Session P1. Marriage, Unions, Families, and Households