The Latin American Cohabitation Boom, 1970-2007

Albert Esteve, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED)
Ron J. Lesthaeghe, University of Michigan and University of California, Irvine
Antonio Lopez-Gay, Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics (CED)

This article documents the spectacular rise of the share of cohabitation in the process of union formation in over 350 regions of 13 Latin American countries during the last 30 years of the 20th Century. To this end harmonized census microdata were utilized (IPUMS International). The rise in cohabitation occurred both in such areas with “old cohabitation” practices and in those where cohabitation had remained much more exceptional till the 1970s. Results show the existence of a universal negative cohabitation- education gradient, with women with higher levels of education cohabiting less and moving to marriage in greater proportions. On the basis of such negative cross-sectional gradients, one would expect that with advancing education over time, cohabitation would yield to marriage, and yet just the opposite trend in marriage and cohabitation is observed. This reveals that ideational factors favorable to cohabitation must have been “flying under the radar”.

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Presented in Session 21: Union Formation: Developing Countries