Abstract

This study builds on Becker’s and Oppenheimer’s theories of union formation to examine the economic determinants of marriage and cohabitation during older adulthood. Based on the 1998–2006 Health and Retirement Study and a sample of previously married Americans who are at least 50 years old, results show that wealthier older adults, regardless of gender, are more likely to repartner than stay single. Wealth has no discernable effect on the likelihood of remarrying versus cohabiting. Among the oldest men, the positive associations between wealth and repartnering are entirely due to housing assets. Results suggest that Oppenheimer’s theory of marriage timing may be more applicable to later-life union formation than Becker’s independence hypothesis. Further, economic disadvantage does not appear to characterize later-life cohabitation, unlike cohabitation during young adulthood. These findings help illuminate the union formation process during older adulthood and are timely considering demographic changes reshaping the American population.

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