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The Influence of School Enrollment and Accumulation on Cohabitation and Marriage in Early Adulthood

Arland Thornton, William G. Axinn and Jay D. Teachman
American Sociological Review
Vol. 60, No. 5 (Oct., 1995), pp. 762-774
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096321
Page Count: 13
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The Influence of School Enrollment and Accumulation on Cohabitation and Marriage in Early Adulthood
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Abstract

We explore the influence of education on cohabitation and marriage, formulating a theoretical framework that identifies ways in which the multiple dimensions of education influence both cohabitation and marriage. Our theoretical framework links education and union formation through the incompatibility of educational and marital and cohabiting roles, the opportunity costs of truncating education, and the accumulation of skills, knowledge, and credentials gained from school attendance. Using this theoretical framework, we formulate hypotheses about the influence of school enrollment and accumulation on marriage and cohabitation--hypotheses that are sometimes contradictory to what has been theorized in prior research. We evaluate our hypotheses using event-history data from a panel study of young adults. Results indicate that school enrollment decreases the rate of union formation and has greater effects on marriage than on cohabitation. School accumulation increases marriage rates and decreases cohabitation--a pattern suggesting that less educated individuals tend to substitute cohabitation for marriage, while those with greater school accumulation are more likely to marry.

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