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Secularization, union formation practices and marital stability: Evidence from Italy


  • Roberto Impicciatore
  • Francesco Billari


Using descriptive statistics, civil marriages and marriages preceded by premarital cohabitation are more unstable, i.e., more frequently followed by divorce. However, the literature has shown that selectivity plays an important role in the relationship between premarital cohabitation and union dissolution. We do not have evidence to date regarding the selectivity in the effect of civil marriage. The Italian case appears particularly interesting given the recent diffusion of premarital cohabitation and civil marriage. Using micro-level data from a national-level representative survey held in 2003, we develop a multiprocess model that allows unobserved heterogeneity to be correlated across the three decisions (premarital cohabitation, civil marriage, and divorce). Our results show that selectivity is the main factor that explains the higher divorce rates among those who experience premarital cohabitation and a civil marriage. Net of selectivity, the causal effect on union dissolution disappears.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberto Impicciatore & Francesco Billari, 2010. "Secularization, union formation practices and marital stability: Evidence from Italy," Working Papers 026, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
  • Handle: RePEc:don:donwpa:026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miles Corak & Christine Lietz & Holly Sutherland, 2005. "The Impact of Tax and Transfer Systems on Children in the European Union," Papers inwopa05/30, Innocenti Working Papers.
    2. Andrea Brandolini, 2006. "Measurement of Income Distribution in Supranational Entities: The Case of the European Union," LIS Working papers 452, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elena Pirani & Daniele Vignoli, 2014. "Are spouses more satisfied than cohabitors? A survey over the last twenty years in Italy," Econometrics Working Papers Archive 2014_09, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Statistica, Informatica, Applicazioni "G. Parenti".
    2. Christine Schnor, 2014. "The Effect of Union Status at First Childbirth on Union Stability: Evidence from Eastern and Western Germany," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(2), pages 129-160, May.
    3. Zsolt Spéder & Tamás Bartus, 2017. "Educational Enrolment, Double-Status Positions and the Transition to Motherhood in Hungary," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 33(1), pages 55-85, February.
    4. RUSSO, Federica & MOUCHART, Michel & WUNSCH, Guillaume, 2013. "Confounding and control in a multivariate system. An issue in causal attribution," CORE Discussion Papers 2013068, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    5. Daniele Vignoli & Silvana Salvini, 2014. "Religion and union formation in Italy: Catholic precepts, social pressure, and tradition," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 31(35), pages 1079-1106, November.

    More about this item


    divorce; cohabitation; civil marriage; religion; multiprocess models; selectivity;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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