Indicators of Child, Family, and Community Connections, Companion Volume of Related Papers. VI. Conclusion

08/01/2004

The pathways to union formation are increasingly diverse and occur throughout life. Contemporary understanding of this diversity is limited, especially as it varies by ethnic identity, age, and stage in the life course. Though we know vastly more today about who cohabits, marries, or divorces than we did two or three decades ago, we lack basic information about the variety of relationships that currently exist in America. I recommend that three sequences of questions be developed as outlined above. Including these in nationally representative panel surveys and other national data gathering techniques to routinely collect basic demographic information about the respondent (including marital and fertility history) would allow researchers to a) catalogue the variety of contemporary relationships, b) explore the content of those relationships as they resemble traditional monogamous heterosexual marriage, and c) chart the development of commitment among relationship types and over time. Combined with other information typically gathered in large surveys, it would also be possible to analyze the individual and couple characteristics that are associated with each type of pairing (e.g., income, educational attainment, labor force involvement, etc.). In short, these three categories of information would allow us to chart the pathways to union formation in America.

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