Cohabitation and Remarriage in Later Life: The Role of Financial Resources and Generational Transfers in Shaping Union Choices

Jonathan E. Vespa, Ohio State University

Economic resources play a critical role in union formation during young adulthood. Their role during older adulthood is less clear because our knowledge of later-life union formation is meager. Using the 1998–2006 Health and Retirement Study, this research examines the risks and economic factors associated with remarriage and cohabitation among older Americans (aged 50+). By focusing on wealth and financial transfers instead of education, employment, or income, this study offers a more nuanced assessment of older adults’ resources. Event history models reveal that wealthier older adults are more likely to cohabit or remarry than stay single, though wealthier persons are no more or less likely to remarry than cohabit. Further, older women who make financial transfers to family are more likely to stay single or cohabit than remarry. Last, older female (but not male) cohabiters appear economically disadvantaged compared to the remarried, which is due to differences in homeownership between older cohabiting and remarried women.

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Presented in Session 5: Marriage and Union Formation