Marriage versus Cohabitation: How Specialization and Time Use Differ by Relationship Type. A new GLO Discussion Paper by GLO Fellow Leslie Stratton.

A new GLO Discussion Paper using Australian time-use data finds that on average married couples specialize more than cohabiting couples.

GLO Discussion Paper No. 1269, 2023

Marriage versus Cohabitation: How Specialization and Time Use Differ by Relationship Type Download PDF
by Stratton, Leslie S.

GLO Fellow Leslie Stratton

Author Abstract: Relationships have changed dramatically in the last fifty years. Fewer couples are marrying, more are cohabiting. Reasons for this shift abound, but the shift may have consequences of its own. A number of models predict that those cohabiting will specialize less than those marrying. Panel data on time use – particularly housework time – as well as on the degree of specialization in more narrowly defined household tasks from the 2001-2019 waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey are used to test this prediction. Panel analysis of reported time use data for men provides limited evidence of specialization in any type of relationship. The results for women are much stronger. Women who marry without first cohabiting increase their reported housework time more than those who enter cohabitations (by 3.7 hours versus 1.2 hours). The latter generally make up the difference if they marry. Expanding the analysis to other time uses yields some further evidence of specialization. Survey responses on the degree of specialization are more informative. The raw data show substantial intrahousehold specialization. Even controlling for a broad array of covariates, on average married couples specialize more than cohabiting couples. Furthermore, specialization increases when cohabiting couples marry. Interestingly, there does not appear to be a substantial tradeoff between tasks; partners who report specializing more on one task are more likely to report specializing on other tasks as well. Given the role couples have in family formation and the labor market, it is important to understand this intrahousehold behavior.

Featured image: dainis-graveris-on-unsplash

Vol. 36, Issue 3, July 2023: Journal of Population Economics (JOPE) 26 articles on: Aspirations and preferences; Environment, Weather, Climate; Family; Fertility; Historical demography; Ageing, pensions, social security; Migration

JOPE has CiteScore 9.2 (2022, LINK) & Impact Factor 4.7 (2021, LINK)

GLO Discussion Papers are research and policy papers of the GLO Network which are widely circulated to encourage discussion. Provided in cooperation with EconStor, a service of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, GLO Discussion Papers are among others listed in RePEc (see IDEAS,  EconPapers)Complete list of all GLO DPs – downloadable for free.

The Global Labor Organization (GLO) is an independent, non-partisan and non-governmental organization that functions as an international network and virtual platform to stimulate global research, debate and collaboration.