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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Despite the burgeoning cohabitation literature, research has failed to examine social class variation in processes of forming and advancing such unions. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with working- and middle-class cohabitors, we examine the duration between dating and moving in together, reasons for cohabiting, and subsequent plans.
Transitions to cohabitation are more rapid among the working class. Respondents often cohabited for practical reasons—out of financial necessity, because it was convenient, or to meet a housing need. Our findings indicate the need to reassess common beliefs regarding the role served by cohabitation and suggest that cohabitation has become another location where family outcomes are diverging by social class.
Yet the function that cohabitation serves is poorly understood, in part because its role may differ by cohort, social class, or racial and ethnic group membership. Yet its increase has been greatest among those with a high school degree or some college. Class differences in transitions from cohabitation to marriage also appear to be widening, with living together more likely to serve as a springboard to marriage for nonpoor women than for those who are disadvantaged Lichter et al.
Our study addresses this gap, focusing on cohabiting couples where both partners generally share being moderately educated having obtained either a high school degree or attended some college classes but not having completed a 4-year degree or are highly educated having at least a college degree.
We examine variation in the tempo of entrance into cohabiting unions, explore reasons cohabitors give for entering into shared living arrangements, and assess the extent to which future plans were discussed upon moving in together and subsequently, particularly those centered on engagement and marriage. Data are from in-depth interviews with 30 working-class and 31 middle-class cohabiting couples living in Columbus, Ohio.
A great deal of research attention has been devoted over the past few cohabitation game guidelines to cohabitation. Smock, Notwithstanding the presumption that cohabitation serves as a stepping-stone to marriage, relatively little is known about the formation and development of such relationships prior to entrance into shared living. When asked why they had decided to live with their partners, these respondents mentioned factors such as convenience, finances, and housing needs; few stated that they had plans for marriage upon first moving in with their partners.
To date, neither qualitative nor quantitative studies have examined whether social class differentiates the pace of moving in with a partner and subsequent relationship trajectories. But there are tantalizing hints that, as with other family outcomes, the function served by cohabitation may differ across population groups. Economically advantaged women are ificantly more likely to transition from cohabitation to marriage, for example, than are less advantaged women such as single mothers Lichter et al.
Furthermore, conception within cohabiting unions is more likely to result in marriage prior to the birth of among women with college degrees than for women with lower levels of education Musick. The possibility that cohabitation processes are diverging cohabitation game guidelines social class has important implications for child well-being, union stability, and income inequality.
If less advantaged individuals form cohabiting relationships for different reasons than the college educated, we would expect differences to emerge in subsequent relationship quality. In fact, Stanley, Rhoades, and Markman have argued that couples who rapidly slide into cohabitation, rather than actively deciding to live together on the basis of commitment and love, are more likely to end up in unhappy and unstable relationships. Clearly, a better understanding of the processes involved in entering into cohabiting unions and whether they diverge for working- and middle-class adults is necessary.
Despite changes in the outcomes of cohabiting unions, little is known about the reasons cohabitors give for entering into their shared living arrangements or how their relationship plans change over time. Nor do we know whether reasons for forming cohabiting unions differ by social class at the point of union formation or subsequently.
The purpose of this study is to cohabitation game guidelines how cohabitation processes differed by social class. Specifically, three research questions guided our study: a How do cohabitors describe their processes of entering into shared living in terms of their tempo and reasons for cohabiting? Answers to such questions will enable us to assess the meaning that cohabitation holds for respondents at the time they enter into their shared living arrangements and subsequently and whether the process of cohabitation differs for the highly educated relative to those with moderate levels of schooling.
Our study allows participants to present their own perspectives of their relationships, particularly when and why they decided to move in with their romantic partners, as well as to present more nuanced rationales for their decisions than can be obtained through quantitative questionnaires. Data are from in-depth interviews with 30 working-class and 31 middle-class heterosexual couples who were living in a large metropolitan area Columbus, OH.
Interviews were conducted with both members of each couple simultaneously but in different rooms; this enables us to assess partner similarities and differences in reasons for moving in, future expectations, and aspects of relationships that involve negotiation. All couples had shared a residence for at least 3 months. Names of all respondents have been altered to protect confidentiality. Educational attainment, occupation, mobility opportunities, and earnings were used to distinguish our two class groups, which we deate as working class and middle class.
Working-class respondents generally had some college education or less. We initially sought our working-class sample by identifying a community college that offered a variety of 2-year degree programs and prepared students to pursue a 4-year degree at a senior college.
Community college students come from families with fewer economic resources, are less likely to have been on an academic track in high school, and have lower rates of attaining a college degree than students who attend a 4-year institution Goldrick-Rab, s were posted on public message boards at the campus.
Despite the recruiting locale, fewer than half of those in the working-class sample were students, and most of them attended part-time or intermittently while working at least part-time. Several non-students who saw the postings or were told of the study by an acquaintance also contacted us; we limited referrals to one per couple.
Data collection for the working-class sample took place from July to April The second stage of data collection targeted middle-class cohabitors, also defined predominantly by educational attainment—a college degree. The 31 middle-class couples were recruited primarily through fliers posted in high-end grocery cohabitation game guidelines, coffee shops, and restaurants, as well as a posting on an online community bulletin board.
Participants in the middle-class sample were interviewed between Cohabitation game guidelines and June The four college-educated partners in the working-class couples were not holding jobs that required a college degree. The partners ased to our middle-class group who did not have a college degree, in contrast, all were either financially established as owners or managers of businesses at the time of the interview or from well-off middle-class families. All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 36, the prime family formation years when young adults make key decisions about work, marriage, and fertility.
The mean age for the middle-class sample was somewhat greater than for our working-class one— Couples had lived together for an average of The jobs of those in the working-class sample included telemarketing, wait staff, and computer technician, whereas middle-class respondents held positions as architects, computer systems analysts, teachers, and respiratory therapists.
Data were coded thematically, and common patterns of behavior, reasons, and expectations were identified through repeated readings of the transcripts. Transcripts were each coded line by line by both authors. We referred to studies cf. The second stage of analysis involved axial coding or looking at variability and linkages within topics. The third level of analysis involved selective coding, integrating and refiningand relating them to other concepts; for example, we looked at class variation among those giving a particular reason e.
Although partners did not always concur regarding how long they were romantically involved before moving in together, responses generally differed by only a few months, and these differences usually were within one category such as one respondent reporting 4 months and the other 6. Our third analysis examines whether cohabitors discussed their future plans before moving in and subsequently; we also explore this at the couple level, though we note where partners differ.
This shift, from the level of the couple to individual factors and then back to the couple, provides a good approximation of how relationships progress, with some steps being more dyadic and others more individualized. Responses to questions regarding how the relationship cohabitation game guidelines allowed us to estimate the length of time from when couples began their romantic relationships to when they moved in together.
On the basis of prior research Sassler,we divided our duration measure into those who moved in within 6 months, from 7 to 12 months after their relationships started, after a year but before the 2-year period, and 2 or more years from when they began dating. As can be seen in Figure 1over a third of our couples A fourth of the couples in the sample moved in together within 7—12 months, while slightly more than a quarter waited for over a year but less than 2 years.
These overall trends mask considerable class disparity in union tempo. Entrance into cohabiting unions is far more accelerated among the working class, half of whom moved in with their partners within the first 6 months, compared with less than a quarter of the middle-class couples. Overall, nearly three-quarters of the working-class sample moved in within a year of becoming romantically involved.
Middle-class couples demonstrated a much more tempered entrance into their shared living arrangements—over half were romantically involved for over a year prior to moving in together. Respondents often mentioned reasons motivating their entrance into shared living as they discussed how their relationships unfolded. They were also asked an open-ended question about why they had moved in with their partner.
Several reasons for moving in with a partner were frequently offered, though generally one or two causes predominated. A handful of respondents also cited other factors—concerns with safety, for example—but never as a first reason. Findings for two that relate specifically to the intensification of cohabitation game guidelines romantic relationship time together and the next step are also presented in tandem. Nearly a fifth of the total sample of cohabitors reported that housing needs spurred their decisions to enter into shared living Table 2.
Housing is the one reason that was mentioned as frequently by working- and middle-class respondents. Respondents described a variety of residence-related factors, including the departure of a roommate or growing discomfort with a roommate situation, leases ending, and the intensification of long-distance relationships that required relocation and a new place to live. Respondents could, and often did, mention several reasons for why they decided to cohabit.
A closer look at the data reveals important social class distinctions in the relationship between duration to shared living and housing. Over two-thirds of the working-class respondents who reported housing as a reason for cohabiting had moved in with their partners within 6 months. In contrast, only four of the middle-class respondents who mentioned housing as a reason moved in within a half-year of the start of their relationships. Instead, middle-class respondents who mentioned housing as a justification tended to be romantically involved for over a year before forming their shared households; a larger proportion had lived with a roommate as opposed to with family or alone before cohabiting.
Because middle-class respondents had more resources, they appeared to have the luxury of waiting until they wanted to change residences such as when a lease endedrather than needed cohabitation game guidelines move into shared living. The cause most often mentioned was convenience, proffered by nearly a quarter Such respondents talked about the bother of traveling between two residences and determining what clothes to bring, given the of nights spent together.
The word convenience itself was frequently used. It was just more of a strain on our relationship to not live together than it was to live together, because we were always driving back and forth. It was just a pain in the butt. Unlike housing-related issues, general convenience was referred to far more frequently by the middle-class cohabitors see Figure 2.
Over a quarter of respondents in the more educationally advantaged group stated that they moved in because it made day-to-day life easier, and middle-class respondents who moved in together the most rapidly, within 6 months of the start of their relationships, were most likely to mention convenience as a motivator.
Among the working class, convenience was frequently mentioned among both those who moved in within 6 months and those who deferred cohabitation beyond the first year of their relationships. About one of every eight reasons given for cohabiting was the belief that living together just made good economic sense, which we term Economic Rationality. Although some respondents were reluctant to attribute their decisions to cohabit to economic considerations, most viewed it as being sensible or even responsible, although it was not financially necessary.Cohabitation game guidelines
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Class Differences in Cohabitation Processes