Volume 46 - Article 33 | Pages 957–1006 Editor's Choice

Stability and outcome of interracial cohabitation before and after transitions to marriage

By Kate Choi, Rachel Goldberg, Patrick Denice

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Date received:04 Nov 2021
Date published:18 May 2022
Word count:7643
Keywords:interracial unions, marital dissolution, premarital cohabitation, race/ethnicity


Background: Barriers to intermarriage are more formidable than barriers to interracial cohabitation. Relative to same-race couples, a higher share of interracial couples cohabits with their nonmarital partners. This raises the question: Does the social significance of cohabitation differ for interracial and same-race couples?

Objective: We compared the stability and outcome of first cohabitations prior to any marriage and the association between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marriage by couples’ joint race/ethnicity.

Methods: Using data from the 2002 and 2006–2019 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we estimated discrete-time event history models to predict differences in the stability of cohabitations and subsequent marriages by couples’ joint race/ethnicity.

Results: The stability and outcomes of White–Black cohabitations were similar to those of same-race Black cohabitations, whereas the stability of White–Hispanic cohabitations fell in between those of their same-race White and Hispanic counterparts. Premarital cohabitation was generally positively associated with higher odds of marital dissolution, but it was negatively associated with the odds of marital dissolution for White–Black couples.

Contribution: Considerable heterogeneity exists in the social significance of interracial cohabitation. The challenges of crossing racial barriers in union formation may contribute to distinct union trajectories for interracial couples.

Author's Affiliation

Kate Choi - University of Western Ontario, Canada [Email]
Rachel Goldberg - University of California, Irvine, United States of America [Email]
Patrick Denice - University of Western Ontario, Canada [Email]

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