Trends in the Relative Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions following a First Birth

Kelly Musick, Cornell University
Katherine Michelmore, Cornell University

The share of births to cohabiting couples has increased dramatically in recent decades. The stability of these families provides critical insight into the process of family change and its potential implications for the well-being of parents and children. We use data from the 1995 and 2006-10 NSFG to: 1) describe change in the characteristics of unions with children over time; 2) compare changes in the stability of cohabiting and marital unions, net of changes in the composition of unions; and 3) run a set of simulations to flesh out the implications of our models. Despite the movement away from marriage and the higher risk of separation among cohabiting couples, the overall level of union stability remains virtually unchanged from 1985-95 to 1997-2010. We find that offsetting compositional changes and estimated associations with union stability yield on net little change in the context of union stability for children over time.

  See paper

Presented in Session 131: Family Instability