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Raley, R. Kelly (1996). A Shortage of Marriageable Men? A Note on the Role of Cohabitation in Black-White Differences in Marriage Rates. American Sociological Review, 61(6), 973-983.


Using the National Survey of Families and Households, I explore the role of cohabitation in differences between Blacks and Whites in union formation. Previous research has explained at most one-quarter of racial differences in marriage rates. Despite this and a well-documented rise in premarital cohabitation among both races, no previous research has explored racial differences in union formation. I begin by showing that the Black-White difference in the timing of first union (that is, first cohabitation or first marriage) is about one-half the Black-White difference in the timing of first marriage. Then I use proportional hazard models to determine whether racial differences in first union formation rates and first union type can be attributed to the availability of men or to men's employment characteristics. The results provide clear evidence that marriage market characteristics contribute to the lower likelihood that Black women will cohabit or will marry. However, Black-White differences in union type (that is, the greater tendency among Blacks to cohabit rather than to marry) are not related to differences in the availability of employed men.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Sociological Review


Raley, R. Kelly