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This study aims to contribute to the literature by investigating

ethnic variations in the characteristics of first cohabitation and first

marriage formed by Asian American young adults. This investigation

is important for several reasons. First, in an era of rapid family

change, very little is known about whether different Asian American

subgroups experience similar marriage decline. Entry into marriage is

a critical marker during the transition to adulthood. It is imperative

for researchers to understand whether the differential socioeconomic

profiles observed between Asian American ethnic groups are also

reflected in their likelihood of forming a marital union.

Second, despite rapid increases in cohabitation in recent

decades, we know very little about patterns of cohabitation among

Asian Americans in the U.S. It is very likely that the prevalence of

pre-marital cohabitation for Asian Americans resembles those of

their counterparts in Asia, given that a large proportion of them are

first- and second-generation immigrants (Zhou & Lee, 2004).

While prevalence of cohabitation in the less developed part of Asia

is unknown, research has documented rising cohabitation rates in

the more advanced East Asian economies and the Philippines

(Lesthaeghe, 2010; Williams, Kabamalan, & Ogena, 2007). Does

the prevalence of cohabitation among Asian Americans vary by

immigrants’ country of origin? The fact that cohabiting unions are

more fragile makes knowing which Asian subgroups are more

vulnerable to union instability a critical issue. Moreover, are

cohabiting unions formed by certain subgroups more likely to end

in marriage than others? Answers to these questions can have policy

implications for both the adults and children involved in these


Third, it has been documented that Asian Americans, along

with Hispanics and American Indians, are much more likely to

marry a white partner than are African Americans. Is this pattern

uniform across all ethnic subgroups? It is reasonable to believe that

the answer is negative, due to the differential socioeconomic

profiles between Asian American subgroups. Socioeconomic status

affects contacts and interactions between the majority and minority