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Cohabitation in the U.S. has Doubled Since the Mid-1990s


A recent study by the Pew Research Center titled “Living Together: The Economics of Cohabitation,” finds that rates of cohabitation in the U.S. have gone up significantly over the last 15 years. Authors Richard Fry and D’Very Cohn use census data from heterosexual couples who (unlike many of their homosexual counterparts) have a choice between getting married, or simply living together unmarried. Fry and Cohn write:

Cohabitation is an increasingly prevalent lifestyle in the United States. The share of 30- to 44-year-olds living as unmarried couples has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.  Adults with lower levels of education—without college degrees—are twice as likely to cohabit as those with college degrees.

Perhaps you already guessed that – the pressure to get married isn’t quite the same as it was 50 years ago.  What’s more interesting though is that the level of education makes a big difference as to how the median household income of cohabiters measures up against their married counterparts.

This report finds that greater economic well-being is associated with cohabitation for adults with college degrees, but not for those without college degrees. The measurement used for economic well-being is median household income, which in this analysis has been adjusted for the size of the household and standardized to a household size of three. Among college-educated adults, the median adjusted household income of cohabiters ($106,400 in 2009) slightly exceeded that of married adults ($101,160) and was significantly higher than that of adults without opposite-sex partners ($90,067). However, among adults without college degrees, the median adjusted household income of cohabiters ($46,540) was well below that of married couples ($56,800) and was barely higher than that of adults without opposite-sex partners ($45,033).

So if you didn’t make it to college… better get married!