The influence of premarital cohabitation on the age of the first marriage: based on the Heckman two-stage model

LIANG Tonggui1

(1.School of Social Development, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, China 201620)

【Abstract】In modern society, the age of the first marriage continues to rise, and the phenomenon of premarital cohabitation appears more and more. Is there any relationship between premarital cohabitation and age of the first marriage? This paper adopts choice hypothesis and the experience hypothesis which depict the effects of premarital cohabitation on divorce and further discusses the relationship between the two hypothesis and the age of the first marriage. The choice hypothesis believes that the characteristics of the cohabitants themselves urge them to pursue emancipation of the mind and negatively affect the stability of marriage. Therefore, they do not want to establish a long-term contract with their cohabiting partners. It is speculated that these positive factors affecting cohabitation will have a negative impact on marriage, so that premarital cohabitation will delay the age of the first marriage. The experience hypothesis believes that the experience of living together will change the cohabitants’ understanding of marriage, making them no longer strongly committed to the pursuit of marriage. They will accept the temporary nature of premarital cohabitation. Many couples believe that cohabitation provides a substitute for marriage, and the desire to marry declines. Therefore, this will also delay the age of the first marriage. In addition to the two hypotheses, cohabitants want to collect more information from each other through cohabitation, but wanting to know more about each other’s ideas will also delay the first marriage. Based on the theory analysis, the study uses 2010 CFPS sampling survey data to test the influence of premarital cohabitation on the age of the first marriage after using the Heckman two-stage model to correct the bias caused by the self-selection of premarital cohabitation. The study found that premarital cohabitation delayed the age of the first marriage of women and men by 0.415 year old and 0.868 year old respectively. After controlling the choice of premarital cohabitation, the influence of premarital cohabitation on the age of the first marriage of women and men was still significant, and the age of the first marriage was delayed by 0.431 year old and 0.890 year old respectively. This study proves that premarital cohabitation will increase the age of the first marriage. It further clarifies the role of premarital cohabitation in the formation of family. The effect of premarital cohabitation on the age of the first marriage has undoubtedly had a negative impact on the growth of the number of births under the universal two-child policy.

【Keywords】 premarital cohabitation; age of the first marriage; Heckman two-stage model;


【Funds】 2019 Scientific Research Project of East China University of Political Science and Law (19HZK025)

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(Translated by LI Mengling)


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This Article


CN: 22-1017/C

Vol 42, No. 01, Pages 5-16

January 2020


Article Outline


  • 1 Theoretical background and research hypotheses
  • 2 Database introduction, collation and analytical steps
  • 3 Analysis of results
  • 4 Conclusions and discussions
  • References