Committed to Independence? An Exploratory Study of Living Apart Together in Contemporary Sweden

Livia Olah , Stockholm University
Lena Karlsson, Umeå University
Glenn Sandström, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Umeå University

Sweden is among the countries with highest share of single households in Europe. Living without a partner beyond young adulthood has often been associated with vulnerability. As revealed by more recent research however, a non-negligible proportion of “partnerless” individuals are in committed relationships. In this paper, we seek to explore the main characteristics of the LATs in the Swedish population, to have a better understanding of their potential vulnerability. We analyze data of the Swedish GGS, absent from many of the latest studies on LAT. We focus on ages beyond the late twenties, as challenges of labor-market establishment are less likely to interfere with partnership formation then, notwithstanding patterns of delayed family building. Multinomial logistic regression is our tool of analysis. The results suggest that vis-á-vis co-residence, LAT is more prevalent among: i) childless men than women, but the opposite is true for single parents; ii) the elderly (aged 70+) as compared to ages of thirties; iii) people coping with long-term illness, and those in a difficult economic situation. However, neither educational attainment, nor labor-force attachment matter for LAT as compared to co-residence, decreasing concerns of vulnerability for people in such relationships. We do not find an association with metropolitan residence, or of growing up in a non-intact family. Most of our findings can be interpreted both from a perspective of preferences for the flexibility and independence linked to LAT and of potential constraints putting individuals with certain traits into LAT-relationships rather than co-residence.

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 Presented in Session 101. Singlehood and Relationships in the 21st Century