Class Differences in Cohabitation Processes

Sharon Sassler, Cornell University
Amanda J. Miller, Ohio State University

Contemporary understanding of the functions cohabitation serves, and how these vary by social class, is limited. Our paper explores the process of forming cohabiting unions, examining how rapidly couples progress into shared living, reasons for doing so and plans discussed prior to moving in. Data are from in-depth interviews with 30 working-class and 31 middle-class cohabiting couples from the Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area. Working-class cohabitors in our sample moved into their living arrangements more rapidly than their middle-class counterparts. Reasons for cohabiting are generally similar across social class, with convenience and housing needs most often mentioned. But financial necessity and considering cohabitation “the next step” are linked to social class. Middle class couples were more likely to have discussed future plans prior to moving in, and to become engaged shortly after. Social class differences differentiate the ways cohabitation is experienced and the function it serves for contemporary young adults.

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Presented in Session 119: Cohabitation