Marriage and cohabitation in the Americas: geo-historical legacies and new trends

Albert Esteve, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED), UAB
Ron J. Lesthaeghe, University of Michigan and University of California, Irvine

We use census microdata to offer a general view of the often spectacular rise of the share of cohabitation in the process of union formation in the Americas since the 1960s. The effects of social stratification, religion and ethnicity are continuing to be of major importance. This not only holds at the individual level, but at the contextual level as well. Nevertheless, an entirely new wave of change started rolling over the pre-existing patterns from the 1970s onward. In some countries that evolution advanced with a big leap, whereas in others the trends have been more gradual. But in all cases these trends are following a firm course, irrespective of the economic ups and downs. The Americas, as opposed to most Asian societies and Africa, are now following in the European footsteps, be it with their own distinct and path-dependent characteristics associated with regionally varying historical antecedents.

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Presented in Session 31: Cohabitation versus marriage