Racial/ethnic variations in the health consequences of cohabitation and marriage


Kroeger, Rhiannon A. (2012). Racial/ethnic variations in the health consequences of cohabitation and marriage. 2012 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


I use data from Waves 1 through 4 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine racial/ethnic variations in the health consequences of first marriage and current cohabitation formation. I include categories for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic respondents. I use fixed-effects regression analysis to analyze within-person change regarding various health outcomes, and include interaction terms to test time-invariant race/ethnicity as a moderator. Outcome measures include depressive symptoms, body mass index, binge drinking, and tobacco use. Results indicate that blacks experience fewer health benefits than other racial/ethnic groups following first marriage and current cohabitation. Specifically, blacks experience lower declines in depressive symptoms and tobacco use and greater increases in BMI following marriage and cohabitation formation compared to their white, Hispanic, and Asian counterparts. One exception to this general pattern of results is that members of all racial/ethnic groups experience similar declines in binge drinking following both marriage and cohabitation. These results support the body of literature suggesting that the less normative nature of marriage among blacks has led black individuals to adapt to the absence of marriage by forming other sources of social support, therefore weakening the beneficial impact of marriage on health outcomes.



Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2012 Add Health Users Conference


Kroeger, Rhiannon A.

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID