Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Disruption: Using Propensity Score Matching to Analyze the Cohabitation Effect in Urban China

Yongjun Zhang, Peking University

This article uses the propensity score matching method to analyze the relationship between premarital cohabitation and marital disruption in Urban China. Using data on urban individuals married during 1978-1999 and 2000-2010 from Chinese Family Panel Studies in 2010, this article matches married ones with cohabitation histories prior to first marriage, and applies Cox Proportional Hazards Models to explore how premarital cohabitation affects an individual’s subsequent divorce hazards of first marriage. This research demonstrates that both causal and diffusive theoretical frameworks on the cohabitation effect initiated by Western scholars apply to the context of contemporary China. Specifically, the cohabitation effect existed when cohabitation was uncommon during 1978-1999 which indicates that cohabitation increased individuals’ divorce hazards. This effect, however, disappeared when cohabitation became popular during 2000-2010. Besides, those selective factors also could partly explain the cohabitation effect when cohabitation was uncommon. An imputation-based sensitive analysis shows that this article’s conclusion is robust.

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Presented in Session 115: Non-Marital and Diverse Family Forms