Does waiting pay off? The effect of partnership duration prior to household formation on union stability
Christine Schnor, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
This article investigates how the length of the non-residential partnership phase, which is known as LAT (living apart together), relates to separation behavior. There is a large body of literature on the effects of cohabiting prior to marriage on union stability. However, relatively few studies have examined how the LAT period before moving in together influences separation risks. This is surprising, as this study has found that 90 percent of the unions were preceded by an LAT period. On the one hand, we might expect to find that a short LAT period has a negative influence on union stability, because the partners have relatively little information about each other, and mismatches are therefore possible. It is, however, also conceivable that a short LAT period prior to moving in together is indicative of the couple’s commitment to the union. Data for the empirical analyses came from the German Family Panel. The dataset includes 8,230 residential non-marital and marital unions of 2,899 men and 3,866 women born in 1971-1973 and in 1981-1983. Multilevel piecewise constant survival models were estimated to assess the influence of the length of the LAT (living apart together) period on stability. The results reveal that union stability is positively related to the length of the LAT phase. However, the separation rates of unions without a prior LAT period are also low. The LAT stage has a similar impact on cohabitations and on marriages. The findings suggest that the LAT period is a significant phase in the partnership which enables couples to acquire information about the quality of the partnership.
Presented in Session 108: Union formation and union dissolution