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“Ethnic Variations in Characteristics of First Unions” 179

Racial and ethnic variations in marriage and cohabitation

patterns have been a core concern of U.S. family research.

Numerous studies have documented the different values and

union characteristics observed between minority groups and

Americans of European ancestry (Casper & Bianchi, 2002;

Crissey, 2005; Manning & Landale, 1996; Manning & Smock,

1995; Schoen & Cheng, 2006; Schoen, Landale, & Daniels,

2007; Staples & Mirande, 1980). Despite the extensive

literature on racial differences in union formation and heated

discussions about


family changes in recent decades,

relatively little research has focused on Asian Americans


fastest growing minority group in the U.S. (Lee & Zhou, 2004;

McLoyd, Cauce, Takeuchi, & Wilson, 2000). The fact that the

Asian American population is projected to grow from 1% of the

total U.S. population in 1970 to 10% in 2050 (Hoeffel, Rastogi,

Kim, & Shahid, 2012; Martin & Midgley, 2003) underscores the

necessity of devoting more attention to investigating important

issues such as the ethnic variations in marriage timing and the

prevalence of premarital cohabitation among Asian Americans.

One key explanation for this lacuna in empirical studies is a

lack of data (i.e., sufficiently large sample size) for Asian Americans

in major national family and social surveys. Such data limitations

have led to the use of the pan-ethnic group “Asian American” as a

common practice in most studies. Yet, the fact that Asian Americans

come from more than twenty different countries and have varying

socioeconomic backgrounds and modes of entry into the U.S.

makes them a very diverse group (Zhou, 2007). Scholars have long

suggested that broad ethnic variations in outcomes exist within the

larger pan-ethnic category of “Asian Americans.” However, data

limitations make it difficult to explore subgroup variations in

family patterns because of insufficient event occurrences. In turn,

very few studies have attempted to describe and explain ethnic

diversity in union formation patterns between Asian American