Searching for the Roots of Family Instability: How Do Institutions Influence Relationship Formation and Quality?

Nina Palmo, University of Texas at Austin

Using couple-level data from the Married and Cohabiting Couples 2010 survey (N=2,150) from the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, I examine variation in how couples meet and how union formation and quality are associated with the meeting method. Schools appear to play a key matchmaking role among the highly educated, whereas neighborhoods and public places play this role for the least educated. Meeting through schools or membership in joint organizations is associated with the highest levels of relationship quality; unions that result from chance encounters in public places are associated with the lowest levels. The results imply that institutions play a key role in sorting which individuals interact with each other, and who will form relationships and marry. Individuals with access to institutions that create the conditions for high quality relationships to form gain an important advantage that may have long-term effects for the union and family stability.

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Presented in Poster Session 5