Volume 32 - Article 32 | Pages 873–914  

Traditional and modern cohabitation in Latin America: A comparative typology

By Maira Covre-Sussai, Bart Meuleman, Sarah Botterman, Koen Matthijs


Background: The existence of cohabitation is a historical feature of nuptiality in Latin America. Traditionally, cohabitation was common in less developed regions, among the lower social classes. But today its occurrence is increasing and in social groups and regions in which it was not common. The features of this latter type of cohabitation remain unclear.

Objective: We differentiate types of cohabitation in Latin America on the basis of relationship context at its outset and its outcomes in terms of childbearing. The comparability of these types over countries is attested, as well as their evolution over time and the educational and age profiles of cohabitants.

Methods: Demographic and Health Survey data for the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s for up to eight countries are analyzed by means of Multiple Group Latent Class Analysis.

Results: Three types of cohabitation are found. The traditional type includes young and lower-educated women who start to cohabit during adolescence. They have more children at younger ages. The remaining two types of cohabitation included higher-educated women and are considered modern. The innovative type groups women from all age groups, with fewer children born at a higher age and never as a single woman. Blended cohabitation refers to older women, who could negotiate a marriage, but do not. They start to cohabit during adulthood, but always after single pregnancy.

Conclusions: The persistence of historical trends is attested. Traditional cohabitation is related to socioeconomic deprivation and prevails in Central American and Caribbean countries. However, two modern types of cohabitation are emerging in the region. They are concentrated in the South and related to women’s independence.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Post-divorce family trajectories of men and women in Flanders
Volume 32 - Article 31

Rivalry, solidarity, and longevity among siblings: A life course approach to the impact of sibship composition and birth order on later life mortality risk, Antwerp (1846-1920)
Volume 31 - Article 38

Characteristics of joint physical custody families in Flanders
Volume 28 - Article 29

Post-divorce custody arrangements and binuclear family structures of Flemish adolescents
Volume 28 - Article 15

Family size and intergenerational social mobility during the fertility transition: Evidence of resource dilution from the city of Antwerp in nineteenth century Belgium
Volume 24 - Article 14

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Age-heterogamous partnerships: Prevalence and partner differences by marital status and gender composition
Volume 50 - Article 23    | Keywords: age heterogamy, assortative mating, cohabitation, marriage, same-sex couples, unions

The big decline: Lowest-low fertility in Uruguay (2016–2021)
Volume 50 - Article 16    | Keywords: adolescent fertility, birth order, fertility, Latin America, ultra-low fertility, Uruguay

Calculating contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning in low-fertility countries with the Generations and Gender Survey
Volume 49 - Article 21    | Keywords: cross-national study, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Europe, family planning, Fertility and Family Survey (FFS), Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), longitudinal data, panel data, unplanned births, World Fertility Survey

An alternative version of the second demographic transition? Changing pathways to first marriage in Japan
Volume 49 - Article 16    | Keywords: cohabitation, first marriages, pattern of disadvantage, premarital children, second demographic transition, transition

Adult children’s union type and contact with mothers: A replication
Volume 48 - Article 23    | Keywords: cohabitation, intergenerational contacts, marriage