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Conference Paper Population Association of America Annual Meeting, Dallas, Texas, April 15-17, 2010

Can't we just live together? New evidence on the effect of relationship status on health


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An extensive literature suggests that marriage confers health benefits to men and women. We address several problems with extant studies. First, measures of morbidity vary across studies making comparisons difficult, and the categorical measure of self-assessed health raises difficult interpretation and econometric issues. Second, existing research has not confirmed whether these benefits accrue to couples who cohabit. Third, the extant research relies almost exclusively on fixed-effects models to control for selection into marriage without addressing the strong persistence in health. We use a multiple correspondence analysis to identify instruments for a continuous multi-dimensional health index. We control for selection by estimating the individual heterogeneity affecting both selection into marriage and health. Our preliminary analysis of nearly 2,430 individuals over 17 waves of the British Household Panel Survey finds that cohabitation has a greater positive effect on health than marriage after controlling for both selection and health dynamics.


Family Formation And Dissolution and Health



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