Couples moving in and living together, outside of marriage, was once frowned upon in our society. Now it is commonplace, and the stigma is long-gone. For some, cohabitation is a stepping-stone to marriage. For others, it is an alternative to marriage. The Center for Disease Control recently published a report on Cohabitation in America, chock-full of interesting statistics. I have included parts of that report below.
NATIONAL HEALTH STATISTICS REPORT
April 4, 2013
“The current report presents estimates from the 2006–2010 NSFG on the first premarital cohabitation experiences of women aged 15–44 in the United States and describes trends in these data since 1995. Estimates of how long women’s first premarital cohabiting unions lasted and whether they remained intact, transitioned to marriage, or dissolved are presented.
Forty-eight percent of women interviewed in 2006–2010 cohabited with a partner as a first union, compared with 34% of women in 1995.
This report presents national estimates of first premarital cohabitations with a male partner for women aged 15–44 in the United States using the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Estimates from the 2006–2010 NSFG show that nearly one-half (48%) of women aged 15–44 had ever cohabited before marriage (Table 1). Similarly, most young couples live together first before entering marriage (1,2). Cohabitations are typically short-lived: one-half of women’s first premarital cohabitations that began in 1997–2001 became marriages and another one-third dissolved within 5 years (2).
Cohabitation has become a more frequent site for childbearing. A recent report on fertility using the 2006–2010 NSFG showed that 23% of recent births among women aged 15–44 occurred within cohabitation, a significant increase from 14% in 2002 (3). One-half of births to cohabiting women in recent years were unintended (4). Unintended births are associated with poorer social, economic, and health outcomes for both the mother and the child (5).
Researchers often frame questions on the meaning of cohabitation in terms of two possibilities: whether cohabitation serves primarily as a step toward marriage, much like dating and engagement, or as an alternative to marriage (7–9). Economic circumstances are related to the marriage decision-making process (10–15). Transitions to marriage are more likely for cohabiting women with higher levels of education and income than for cohabiting women of lower socioeconomic status (10). Economic barriers to marriage are particularly significant for cohabiting women with children (16). Other factors that influence the progression from cohabitation to marriage include relationship commitment and attitudes toward marriage (17,18).
Trends in first premarital cohabitation by subgroup are presented by Hispanic origin and race and education.
+ In more recent years, women were increasingly likely to cohabit with a partner as a first union rather than to marry directly: 48% of women interviewed in 2006–2010 cohabited as a first union, compared with 43% in 2002 and 34% in 1995 (Table 1, Figure 1).
+ The rise in cohabitation as a first union over this time period led to a lower percentage of women aged 15–44 whose first union was a marriage: 23% in 2006–2010, compared with 30% in 2002 and 39% in 1995.
+ In 2006–2010, 70% of women with less than a high school diploma cohabited as a first union, compared with 47% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Age at first premarital cohabitation
By age 18, 9% of women aged 15–44 in 2006–2010 had ever cohabited (data not shown).
By age 20, 26% of women in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 23% in 2002 and 19% in 1995.
By age 25, over one-half of women (55%) in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 52% in 2002 and 46% in 1995.
By age 30, 74% of women in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 70% in 2002 and 62% in 1995.
Women with less than a high school diploma had the highest probability of cohabiting by age 25 (76%), compared with women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (36%).
Since 1995, the length, or median duration, of first premarital cohabitations has increased, regardless of whether these unions remained intact, transitioned to marriage, or had dissolved by the time of the interview. The length of first premarital cohabitations for women aged 15–44 in 2006–2010 was 22 months, compared with 20 months in 2002, and 13 months in 1995.
Outcome of first premarital cohabitation
+ Forty percent of first premarital cohabitations among women transitioned to marriage by 3 years, 32% remained intact, and 27% dissolved.
+ First premarital cohabitations among women aged 22–44 with higher education were more likely to transition to marriage by 3 years. Over one-half of cohabitations among women with a bachelor’s degree or higher had transitioned to marriage (53%), compared with less than one-third of cohabitations among women with less than a high school diploma (30%)
+ A higher percentage of first premarital cohabitations among women with less than a high school diploma (43%) had remained intact by 3 years, compared with 20% of cohabitations among women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Probability of a pregnancy during first premarital cohabitation
+ Since 1995, the probability of a pregnancy within a cohabiting union among women aged 15–44 has increased, from 15% in 1995, to 18% in 2002, and to 19% in 2006–2010.
+ Nearly one in five women in 2006–2010 (19%) experienced a pregnancy in the first year of cohabitation.
+ One out of four women (25%) who were under age 20 when they began cohabiting experienced a pregnancy in the first year, compared with about 1 out of 12 women (8%) who were aged 30–44 when they began cohabiting.
+ One-third of women with less than a high school diploma experienced a pregnancy in the first year of cohabitation (33%), compared with 5% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Probability of marriage among cohabiting women with a pregnancy
+ By 6 months, the probability of marriage among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was higher in the 1995 NSFG (32%) compared with the 2002 and 2006–2010 NSFGs (19% each).
+ The probability of marriage by 6 months among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was higher for women who were in their twenties when they started cohabiting (23%–26%), compared with those under age 20 (16%).
+ The probability of marriage by 6 months among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was three times higher for women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (45%) than for those with less than a high school diploma (15%).
Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage (7–9). Childbearing outside of marriage continues to increase, and about one-half of nonmarital births occur to cohabiting women (3,30).”
* Source: CDC Fast Stats
Gary J. Frank is an Arizona Family Law attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience. He is a strong and compassionate advocate for his clients. Our law firm handles all matters involving Family Law, including divorce, custody, parenting issues, child support, enforcement actions, modification actions, paternity, and grandparent and non-parent rights, as well as division of property and businesses. If you are in need of a consultation to learn about your legal rights, please do not hesitate. Contact us today. You can reach us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email (gary.fran[email protected]), or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.