Race/Ethnicity, Cohabitation and Marital Wealth Accumulation

Matthew A. Painter II, Ohio State University
Jonathan E. Vespa, Ohio State University

Although marriage is associated with wealth accumulation, recent research explores whether all married households have the same financial gains (Vespa and Painter 2008). This proposal extends this work by considering an important source of variation for cohabitation and marital wealth: race and ethnicity. We argue that race and ethnicity are associated with qualitatively different cohabitation experiences due to marriage markets, attitudes and non-marital childbearing. We use multilevel models for change to analyze a sample of 4,205 black, white and Hispanic married households from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979. Since cohabitation often acts as an intermediate step for white households, we expect that these cohabitors will enjoy a wealth premium over the directly married. In contrast, if black and Hispanic cohabiting couples view cohabitation as a substitute for marriage, we may observe a non-significant or negative relationship. Finally, we will use the patterns identified within-racial/ethnic groups to inform our discussion of between-racial/ethnic group differences.

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Presented in Session 119: Cohabitation