Embracing the Institution of Marriage: The Characteristics of Remarried Americans

Diana B. Elliott, U.S. Census Bureau
Jamie M. Lewis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

It has been suggested that marriage in the U.S. has become deinstitutionalized, as a consequence of its diminished status in American society. However, many Americans continue to remarry, occasionally multiple times. Given the context of deinstitutionalized marriage, this paper explores who remarries and how they differ from those marrying for the first time and those who have yet to remarry. This paper uses new marital history questions from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS), the most representative and large-scale data ever collected on marital patterns. We explore three possible explanations why Americans remarry: cohort effects; variations in social and demographic characteristics such as education, income, race, and ethnicity; and geographic variations promoting a “culture” of marriage. We find evidence that all three explanations matter and vary differently for those married one, two, or three or more times relative to their peers.

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Presented in Session 165: New Data on Same- and Different-Sex Unions: Issues and Estimates