Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Eric Helland

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Rights Information

© 2011 Matthew Beienburg


Pre-marital cohabitation has become a mainstream practice among couples in the United States, yet initial empirical evidence demonstrated significant correlations between cohabitation and subsequent marital instability. Later studies disputed a causal relation and have attempted to show a weakened connection over time, but have themselves suffered from the use of exclusively older and/or unreliable data. This paper uses figures from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997-08) and the National Survey of Family Growth (2006-08) to provide an updated analysis of cohabitation’s effect on marriage over the past decade. Using proportional hazard and competing risk models, this paper confirms a now minimal impact of cohabitation on marriage stability, with possible exceptions for serial cohabitation and cohabitation begun prior to engagement. Moreover, this study finds that cohabitation overwhelmingly remains a step toward, rather than serious substitute for, marriage.


  • Robert Day School Prize for Best Senior Thesis in Economics and Finance