Cohabitation Relationships Derived from Register Data
Carel Harmsen, Statistics Netherlands
Henrico Witvliet, Statistics Netherlands
In the Netherlands, marriages and divorces are registered, but starting and ending an intimate cohabitation relationship is not, while the majority of new cohabiting couples are unmarried. Hence, by using data about marriages and divorces we underestimated the amount of starting and ending cohabitation relationships. There is also a household database available, but the definition of a couple in that database is not completely applicable to the situation of intimate cohabitation. Improved data about cohabitation relationships was desirable and we have searched for a better way of reaching this. Not only to improve official statistics about cohabitation but also to create a sound basis to study this phenomenon over time at the individual level. Because we have the possibility of linking this file to other registers, many studies are waiting to be conducted.
Our aim was to determine as best we could whether two persons at an address are an intimate cohabiting couple and if so, what the start and (if applicable) end date of that relationship are, based on register information. We defined a cohabitation relationship as a marriage-like relationship between two people who live together at the same address but who do not necessarily have to be married. As a proxy for the ‘real’ start and end date of the cohabitation relationship we used the date that these two persons start living together at the same address and the date that they do not live together at the same address anymore.
Our strategy is, in short, as follows. First, we select all couples of whom we know from a register source that they have been, still are or will become married, parents of a common child or partners for income taxes or social security benefits. By combining these data with data on address occupation, we decide whether two persons living at an address are a cohabiting couple. For example: two persons live at the same address at a certain moment in time and marry afterwards. These persons can be classified as an intimate cohabiting couple from the moment they started living together because their marriage was registered. One of the problems we encountered was that this strategy causes a bias in the database. For people that recently started living together at the same address, less information about their common future is available. Related to this issue is the question what to do when we do not know whether two individuals living at an address are a cohabiting couple or not, because they are not seen as partners in any register. We have tried to solve these issues by applying an imputation strategy.
Presented in Session 1234: Posters