Volume 30 - Article 55 | Pages 1527-1560

Income pooling strategies among cohabiting and married couples: A comparative perspective

By Nicole Hiekel, Aart C. Liefbroer, Anne-Rigt Poortman

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Date received:19 Mar 2013
Date published:15 May 2014
Word count:8061
Keywords:cohabitation, commitment, Generations and Gender Surveys, income pooling, marriage


Background: Studies explaining why cohabiters are more likely to keep money separate than spouses have mainly focused on selection processes, without taking into account the heterogeneity within both union types in levels of commitment. Cross-national studies are rare and have predominantly included Northern and Western European countries, the United States, and Canada.

Objective: This study explains the higher likelihood of cohabiters to keep income separate by selection as well as commitment factors and explores country differences, including countries from Central and Eastern Europe.

Methods: Using data from the Generations and Gender Surveys of Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Romania, and Russia, N=41,456 cohabiting and married individuals are studied. Binary logistic regression models of the likelihood that respondents keep money separate are calculated.

Results: Across countries, higher education, female labor market participation, both partners being employed, short union duration, absence of joint children, presence of separation thoughts, and (for cohabiters) a lack of marital intentions are the most persistent correlates of keeping money separate. Differences between cohabiters and married couples are reduced when selection and commitment are taken into account, but are still significant. Cross-national variation in the effect of cohabitation on keeping separate purses is persistent.

Conclusions: Different money management strategies of cohabiters and spouses can be explained to some extent by selection processes and inherent differences in the level of commitment within cohabitation and marriage. Countries also differ in the socio-economic context and norms concerning the way intimate relationships are organized which might lead to persistent differences in the way cohabiting and married couples organize their income.

Author's Affiliation

Nicole Hiekel - Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, Netherlands [Email]
Aart C. Liefbroer - Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, Netherlands [Email]
Anne-Rigt Poortman - Utrecht University, Netherlands [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Risk-avoidance or utmost commitment: Dutch focus group research on views on cohabitation and marriage
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» Why do intimate partners live apart? Evidence on LAT relationships across Europe
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» European views of divorce among parents of young children: Understanding cross-national variation
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» Timing of first union among second-generation Turks in Europe: The role of parents, peers and institutional context
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» Trends in living arrangements in Europe: Convergence or divergence?
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