Are cohabiting and being married different? Differences in the socio-demographic composition of partnerships in Western European countries

Pau Miret-Gamundi, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
María José González, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Rocio Treviño-Maruri, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Recent demographic trends show a steady increase in cohabitation unions in most Western European countries. This increase seems to indicate that these unions are becoming a real alternative to marriage and, eventually, a commonly accepted way of living. However, this is not exactly the case in many countries, because some legislative frameworks favour married over cohabiting unions. There are also distinct features which make cohabitating couples essentially different from married couples in many Western societies. The aim of this paper is to explore composition differences between cohabiting and married couples. We hypothesize that despite the larger diffusion of cohabitation in Western countries; this type of partnership holds substantive differences as compare to married couples. This is particularly the case in countries with low prevalence of cohabitation. The research is based on the ECHP (European Community Household Panel), and makes full use of the eight waves from 1994 to 2001.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility, family and children