Do partnerships last? Comparing marriage and cohabitation using longitudinal census data

Ben Wilson, Office for National Statistics, UK
Rachel Stuchbury, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

The stability of couple partnerships is of continual interest to policy-makers and users of population statistics. This research used a sample of adults (from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study) who were in a partnership (married or cohabiting) in the 1991 Census of England and Wales, and then explored whether these individuals were living with the same partner in 2001. Marital partnerships were found to be more stable, even when additional factors were taken into account. Of adults aged between 16 and 54, around four in five adults (82 per cent) that were married in 1991 were living with the same partner in 2001. The equivalent figure for adults cohabiting in 1991 was around three in five (61 per cent), of whom around two-thirds (of those remaining with the same partner) had converted their cohabitation to a marriage by 2001. Long-run partnership stability was also found to vary according to the socio-demographic characteristics of individuals and their partners. A summary of these variations will be presented alongside the headline results. (Population Trends, Spring 2010). NOTE: This work contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown copyright and reproduced with the permission of the controller of HMSO and Queen's Printer for Scotland. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.

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Presented in Session 15: Comparison of the dynamics of marriage and cohabitation

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