Marriage intentions among young cohabitors in Norway and Sweden

Kenneth Aarskaug Wiik, Statistics Norway
Eva Bernhardt, Stockholm University
Turid Noack, Statistics Norway

There is a fairly extensive literature on differences and similarities between married and cohabiting couples, in particular with respect to relationship quality and socioeconomic status. Most studies find that cohabitors in general report lower level of relationship quality, are poorer, less educated, and have a higher risk of splitting up. Union formation is, however, a process whereby many cohabitors eventually marry. This could imply that some of the differences between the union types are due to the fact that cohabiting and married couples are at different stages in this process. Using survey data from Norway and Sweden on individuals aged 25 to 35 (N = 1,597), this paper sets out to examine the association between own and partner’s socioeconomic resources, demographic and attitudinal variables, and variables related to relationship quality on the one hand and cohabitors' marriage expectations on the other. Of the 1,552 cohabitors who responded to the question, 20% (n = 310) are planning to marry their current partners within the next two years. Preliminary multivariate results indicate that being university educated and having a highly educated partner significantly increase the likelihood that cohabitors intend to marry within the next two years. Further, cohabiting couples that have lived together for three to six years and who have common children are more likely to express an intent to marry than childless and those living in unions of longer duration. Our results also show that cohabitors whose most friends are married are more inclined to have marriage plans. Also, being satisfied with, and committed to, the current union significantly increases the likelihood of intending to marry. Separate analyses for men and women reveal that age and union commitment are stronger predictors of women’s marriage intentions.

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Presented in Session 72: The Dynamics of Cohabitation