Are spouses more satisfied than cohabitors? An exploration over the last twenty years in Italy

Elena Pirani, Università di Firenze
Daniele Vignoli, Università di Firenze

During last decades, cohabitation has becoming increasingly common form of family life everywhere in the social landscape of Europe. This research adds to the European literature on the link between partnership status and family satisfaction. We scrutinize the relationship for Italy, where the diffusion of cohabitations is still limited, analyzing seventeen progressive large-scale datasets carried out continuatively since 1993 by Italian Institute of Statistics. We employ a multilevel model to study more than 235,000 individuals, nested in almost 118,000 couples, 19 regions and 17 years. We found that, in the past, Italian cohabitors were less satisfied with their family life than married couples. As time passes, the difference in family satisfaction between cohabitation and marriage weakens. Then, in contemporary years, cohabitors are not less satisfied than spouses anymore. We suggest that the slow, but never-ending, propagation of cohabitations leads to an increase in the approval and legitimization of cohabitors and, in turn, to an increase in their family satisfaction, despite the Italian familistic-oriented welfare state.

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Presented in Session 37: Socioeconomic well-being of partnership