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Working Paper Number POP-WP036
Lynne M. Casper, Philip N. Cohen, Tavia Simmons
Component ID: #ti1047921356


In this paper, we provide an overview of the indirect and direct methods used to measure cohabitation prevalence. We then use March Current Population Survey (CPS) data from 1977 to 1997 to produce a new historical series of indirect cohabitation prevalence estimates. We compare our new indirect estimates with the old series and evaluate the relative strengths of the new estimates. We then examine the characteristics of cohabitors in 1997 using our new direct estimates and compare them with the indirect estimates to investigate whether biases exist in the indirect estimates. Finally, we use our new indirect estimates to describe how the prevalence of cohabitation has changed over the two decades, and note the differences between the new indirect estimates and the old ones. We conclude that the traditional indirect method of estimating cohabitation prevalence undercounts cohabitors among those aged 35 to 54, those who are divorced or separated, black and Hispanic men, and most especially among those with children. We also conclude that indirect measures produce relatively unbiased estimates of the characteristics of cohabitors.

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