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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Premarital Cohabitation and the Risk of Marital Disruption among White, Black, and Mexican American Women


We use data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth to investigate racial and ethnic differences in risk factors for marital disruption, with a particular emphasis on premarital cohabitation. Our analysis expands upon the array of risk factors considered in prior investigations of racial and ethnic differences in disruption and is among the first to systematically examine marital disruption among recent cohorts of Mexican American women. We find that the nature and strength of the estimated effects of several risk factors for disruption differ across groups. In particular, premarital cohabitation is positively associated with subsequent marital disruption among Non-Hispanic White women, but not among Non-Hispanic Black or Mexican American women. Little of observed gaps between groups in levels of disruption, however, appear to be attributable to differences in premarital cohabitation. In addition to improving our understanding of marital disruption, this research contributes to a growing literature emphasizing heterogeneity across groups in the meaning and function of cohabitation.

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