Informal Unions in Mexico and the United States

Tim B. Heaton, Brigham Young University
Renata Forste, Brigham Young University

The dramatic rise in cohabitation in the United States signals a major shift in union formation. In many Latin American countries, however, there is a long tradition of couples living in unions without formal legal sanction. The paper compares recent trends and patterns of union formation in Mexico and the U.S. In contrast to marriage, cohabitation patterns in the U.S. and Mexico appear to have begun from different starting points. Informal unions in Mexico began with a history of informal, common law marriages. In contrast, in the U.S. cohabitation began in the late 60s and early 70s outside the mainstream on the margins of social behavior. Currently, cohabitation is more common in the U.S. than is informal marriage in Mexico, but age patterns of union formation are parallel. Higher education increases the likelihood of marriage over informal unions in each context. Informal unions are less stable in each country.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Family, Households, Unions; Data, Methods, Study Design