Debt, Cohabitation, and Marital Timing in Young Adulthood

Fenaba Addo, Cornell University

Using data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, I follow approximately 6,700 youth from early adulthood through their late 20s and compare youth who transition from singlehood into their first cohabitation to those who enter directly into marriage, utilizing a discrete-time competing risks hazard model framework. Results suggest total debt amount is associated with transitioning into a cohabitating union, increasing the odds of cohabitation over marriage and remaining single for both women and men. Credit card debt increases the probability of cohabitation, whereas education loan debt decreases the odds of marriage relative to remaining single and marrying for young women. Holding debt, independent of debt size, appears to influence first union choice in young adulthood for women. Transitioning to marriage is positively associated with greater educational attainment for all, but women with education loan debt are more likely to delay marrying and cohabit first.

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Presented in Session 129: Transitions from Cohabitation to Marriage