Friends or foes: Semi-formalized cohabitation and subsequent marital stability in Iceland, 1995-2013

2020-03-10T09:05:58Z (GMT) by Ari Klængur Jónsson
Research findings usually suggest that premarital cohabitation is associated with increased risk of marital dissolution. In Iceland, cohabitation has been semi-formalized and if people register cohabitation they acquire certain rights and undertake some obligations. Using data on register cohabitation thus enables us to investigate the proposed association from a somewhat different perspective. The data allow us to focus on couples that intend to live together while weeding out couples that merely “drift” into coresidential unions. We use administrative population register data in our calculations covering all women born in Iceland during 1962–2013, their childbearing and union histories. We analyse the data by means of event history techniques and present the results as relative risks of union dissolution. Our estimates indicate that premarital registered cohabitation in Iceland is associated with lower risk of marital break-ups, and that this finding is quite robust. We do not detect any changes in the relationship during the study period (1995–2013). We interpret the Icelandic-specific findings in support of a trial marriage hypothesis, suggesting that semi-formalized cohabitation results in lower risks of divorce.