The Ecological Context of Union Formation and Instability in Emerging Adulthood: Do Sex Ratios Matter?

Tara D. Warner, Bowling Green State University
Peggy C. Giordano, Bowling Green State University
Monica A. Longmore, Bowling Green State University

Research has linked the local area sex ratio with the likelihood of marriage and divorce. However, it remains unknown whether the ecological context similarly influences transitions into and out of dating or cohabiting relationships. Utilizing data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS) and the 2000 Census, this study adds to the research on marriage markets by assessing the effect of imbalanced sex ratios on the formation and instability of romantic relationships among young adults. Analyses indicate that females are more likely to form unions and less likely to break up with partners in markets with more alternatives, and males have more dating partners in favorable markets. Both males and females report cheating in imbalanced markets. It appears that the ecological context is not only influential for transitions into and out of marriage, but is also important for the process of searching for and evaluating partners prior to marriage.

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Presented in Session 182: Marriage Markets