Changes and stability in marital status: Evidence from Canadian income tax returns
Authors: Frank T. Denton, Byron G. Spencer, and Terry A. Yip
We use a 20 percent longitudinal sample of Canadian personal income tax returns to explore patterns and changes in marital status, with a focus on cohort behaviour. We define five different cohorts, each with a different starting age in 1995, and follow each over a 20-year data period. We consider and compare the changes in cohort patterns, giving special attention to the stability of married and common law unions, and for that purpose distinguishing unions with the same partner from those with a different one. Comparisons of cohort patterns show a shift toward an increased proportion reporting themselves as single or living in a common law union and a decreased proportion reporting married. The proportion married to the same partner declines and the proportion married to a new partner increases, implying some reduction in marriage stability. Common law unions, more common at younger ages, appear unstable but much of the apparent instability is removed when common law unions that would transition to married unions with the same partner are taken into account; common law as a premarital first stage appears to be increasingly common. At older ages the death of a partner is the major terminating factor at the end of a marriage, most prominently among males: widowhood (death of a partner) accounts for a much larger fraction of marriage terminations for women, death of self a much larger fraction for men, reflecting differences in life expectancy and the younger age at marriage of women, on average.
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