Work, Earnings Potential,
and Career Aspiration*
As stated in chapter I, our approach to the subject of marriage and cohabitation is guided by the life-course perspective, a principal tenet of which is that different domains of the human life influence each other throughout the life course. That is, significant events and transitions in an individual's life are interrelated to and contingent upon (but not determined by) other personal experiences and societal forces. In the previous chapter, we examined the influence of various educational experiences on the entry into marriage and cohabitation. We now turn to the influence of work in the labor force on marriage and cohabitation.
Like education, work can have both negative and positive effects on union formation. On the one hand, because successful careers often require substantial investments of time and energy early in the life course, they can compete with union-formation behavior. Thus, role conflict may preclude early union formation among individuals pursuing career ambitions. On the other hand, because financial independence has long been viewed in the Western world as a prerequisite for marriage, success in the labor market may facilitate union formation. In this sense, union formation can be
*Chapter n draws heavily from a published paper authored by Yu Xie, James Raymo, Kim-
berly Goyette, and Arland Thorton (2003).