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Nuptiality in Latin America

heterogeneity, is having an informal marital type known as ‘consensual union’

in which a couple lives together with any children (but qualitatively

different

from

the

barraganía

known

in

Iberia).

To

be

sure,

both

cohabitation

and non-marital childbearing are increasingly common in the United States and

many other developed societies; but this is not the same as what has been an

historically-rooted but changing situation in Latin America.

The purpose of this paper is to try to understand, if only in a limited

way,

this

system

of

having

two

types

of

unions.

After

providing

a

short

historical view of union formation in Latin America, we try to understand the

recent situation--the ambivalence toward union type, the timing of first

union,

and

union

dissolution.

We

use

census

microfile

data

from

a

number

of

countries around 1980 to additionally help show the tremendous diversity

between and within countries, and the fact that union type has had a definite

socioeconomic side to it that may have historical roots but which, in altered

form,

persists

to

this

day.

We

also

show

that

unions

tend

toward

socioeconomic homogamy, marriages only slightly more so than consensual

unions.

It

is

important

at

the

outset

to

point

out

however,

that

this

essay

is

written

by

a

family

demographer.

What

is

family

demography?

And

why

should a family demographer be interested in a socioeconomic aspect to union

type

in

Latin

America?

That

topic

deserves

some

discussion.

Family Demography

Family demography is the natural “marriage” between a sociological

interest in the family and a demographic interest in population structure.

The family is often considered the fundamental social unit, natural for

sociological (and anthropological) study (see e.g. Murdock 1949), while after

age and sex, marital status may be one of the most important population

characteristics

there

is

(see

Shyrock

and

Siegel

1973).

If

one

considers

the

2

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