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Nuptiality in Latin America

useless.”

When

trying

to

trace

marital

structure

from

a

series

of

Brazilian

censuses, Greene reports (1991, p.36) “Women in consensual unions were treated

as single in 1940 and 1950, and as married in 1960 and 1970, appearing in the

‘other’

married

category.”

Probably

typical,

I

found

in

1970

census

data

for

the Dominican Republic, that 62 percent of people 15 and over were listed as

single, but that further probing disclosed many of these “single” people to be

in

a

consensual

union

(see

also

Camisa

1978).

The

next

(1981)

census

included

consensual union as a marital status outright.

Although the true situation is probably somewhat different because of a

social stigma sometimes attached to consensual union instead of formal

marriage, census data tell us that in the recent past, between 5 (Chile 1982)

and 54 (Honduras 1970) percent of all reported unions to women 15 and over

were

informal.

This

can

be

mapped

out

in

Figure

1

based

on

a

grouping

by

Palloni and De Vos (unpublished) of under 15 percent, 15-25 percent and over

25

percent.

4

Although

the

figures

are

for

women,

those

for

men

are

similar

if

not slightly lower, and reflect actually maintaining a family with someone

else.

When

viewing

the

map,

Palloni

and

De

Vos

observe:

“We

can

only

speculate at this point, but the differences within Latin America as of 1980

may have more to do with the prevalence of Indian and African-American

populations and with the degree of ethnic intermarriage than with stages in an

evolution of the patterns of union formation or the levels of socioeconomic

development.”

The

United

Nations

(1990,

p.157)

similarly

observes

after

reporting some socioeconomic differentials in marriage: “However, preference

for a type of union appears to interact with factors of a more cultural

nature,

such

as

ethnic

group.”

Greene

(1991)

echoes

this

conclusion

from

her

examination of Brazilian data, noting for instance, how there were marked

regional differences in the proportion of unions that were consensual rather

than formal.

13

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