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

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Date received:13 Jan 2014
Date published:08 May 2015
Word count:7793
Keywords:cohabitation, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Latin America, Multiple Group Latent Class Analysis (MGLCA)


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

Maira Covre-Sussai - Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), Brazil [Email]
Bart Meuleman - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium [Email]
Sarah Botterman - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium [Email]
Koen Matthijs - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium [Email]

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