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Arland Thornton photo

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

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland, William G. Axinn, and Jay D. Teachman. 1995. "The Influence of School Enrollment and Accumulation on Cohabitation and Marriage in Early Adulthood." American Sociological Review, 60(5): 762-74.

The authors 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. The 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, the authors formulate hypotheses about the influence of school enrollment of accumulation on marriage and cohabitation--hypotheses that are sometimes contradictory to what has been theorized in prior research. The authors evaluate their 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.

Data used: Panel Study of Mothers and Children: U.S.; and Birth records: U.S., 1961.

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