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The Ties That Bind: Principles of Cohesion in Cohabitation and Marriage

Julie Brines and Kara Joyner
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jun., 1999), pp. 333-355
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657490
Page Count: 23
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The Ties That Bind: Principles of Cohesion in Cohabitation and Marriage
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Abstract

A vast literature addresses the correlates of marital stability, but little is known about what unites cohabiting partners over time. Although a specialized division of labor might increase the benefits of marriage and strengthen ties between husband and wife, transactional considerations make specialization unattractive for cohabitors. Drawing from work on the emergence of commitment, we argue that cohabitors are more likely to remain together under conditions of equality. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we test these ideas by modeling the stability of married and long-term cohabiting unions in the United States. We find that married couples who adopt a more specialized division of labor are less likely to divorce, but the effect is modest. Among cohabitors, partners whose employment and earnings are increasingly similar face sharply reduced risks of breaking up, but the effect is asymmetric: Inequality is more disruptive when the female cohabitor earns more than her partner.

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