The prevalence of nonmarital cohabitation is steadily increasing in the United States.
In evaluating the contribution of this new living arrangement to family formation,
analysts have relied primarily on comparisons between individuals who cohabit and
those who do not. We complement this line of inquiry by comparing the United States
and 16 industrialized nations. We first identify six conceptually distinct ideal types
of cohabitation with respect to family formation. We then propose empirical indicators
to distinguish between the different ideal types, and estimate the values of these
indicators for each of the 17 nations. Our findings indicate that although a number
of countries fit an empirical pattern corresponding to one ideal type, cohabitation
in the United States is more difficult to characterize.