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Partnership patterns in the United States and across Europe: which matters more - education or country?

8th August 2013 3pm, University of Southampton 58/1009

Brienna Perelli-Harris and Mark Lyons-Amos, University of Southampton

Previous studies have found an association between education and individual aspects of union formation, such as prevalence of cohabitation, entrance into marriage or cohabitation, and divorce. However, little is known about the relationship between education and holistic partnership patterns that involve multiple transitions. Here we use latent class growth analysis to compare the educational distribution of partnership patterns in the United States and 14 countries in Europe. Latent class growth curves show how women can change their relationship status (never partnered, cohabiting, married after cohabiting, directly married, or separated) between the ages of 15-45. Using statistical tests, we find that 8 classes best fit the data. We then use multinomial logit models to determine whether education is associated with the 8 latent classes. Our results indicate an association between education and classes showing the postponement of marriage in all countries, but a less consistent association between education and classes reflecting long-term cohabitation and union dissolution. More importantly, however, we find that country of residence explains more of the variation in class membership than education, and that the role of country relative to education is becoming more pronounced over time. Although education appears to be important for determining the timing of marriage, the increasing variation in behavior between countries has become more essential for understanding partnership patterns.