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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.