Cohabitation and First Marriage in Japan

Raymo, James, Miho Iwasawa, and Larry Bumpass
Working paper no. 2007-14


In this paper, we use nationally representative data to describe basic characteristics of cohabiting unions in Japan. We also examine the correlates of cohabitation experiences and evaluate the relationship between cohabitation and the transition to first marriage. We demonstrate that cohabitation has increased rapidly among recent cohorts of women and that cohabiting unions in Japan tend to be relatively short and almost as likely to dissolve as to result in marriage. Simple models for the timing and nature of first marriage suggest that cohabitation is only weakly associated with marriage timing. Results change dramatically when we estimate models that account for self-selection into cohabitation. Controlling for unobserved characteristics associated with both selection into cohabitation and first marriage, we find that cohabitation experience itself is strongly associated with earlier marriage. We conclude with speculation about the likelihood of further increases in cohabitation and the potential implications for marriage and fertility.