Is It Better To Get Married…or Shack Up?
By Ellis Moore
Many more American women are living with their partners rather than tying the knot, a new government survey finds.
In addition, they live together longer than couples in the recent past, and many more get pregnant before marriage, according to the survey released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly half of women aged 15 to 44 years old “cohabited” outside of marriage between 2006 and 2010, compared with 43 percent in 2002 and 34 percent in 1995. The report is based on in-person interviews with more than 12,000 women in that age group.
One reason more people are living together is a well-documented delay in the age at which people are marrying, said study lead author Casey Copen, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics.
“Cohabiting couples may be waiting for improved financial stability before they make a decision to marry and, in the process, become pregnant and have a baby,” she said. “As you cohabit longer, there’s more of a chance to become pregnant.”
Many of these arrangements occur at a young age, with one-quarter of women cohabiting by age 20 and three-quarters saying they had lived with a partner by age 30.
During the first year of living together, nearly 20 percent became pregnant and went on to give birth, according to the report.
Along with this trend, fewer women reported getting married in the period from 2006 to 2010 than in either 2002 or 1995 (23 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent, respectively). Of those who became pregnant the first year, 19 percent got married within six months of the pregnancy, versus 32 percent in 1995.
Education and income play a role in how long women cohabit and whether they get pregnant or marry, Copen said.
“Those who have less than a high school degree are cohabiting for longer periods of time,” Copen said. “Women who have a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to move into marriage.”
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