It's a demographic trend to wreck an elementary school chant: First comes love, then comes ... mama and the baby carriage? The number of unmarried new moms living with a male shot up from 9% in 1985 to a whopping 27% from 2003 to 2010, according to a new study. That number was at 12% in 2002, and experts are laying the blame for the dramatic jump since largely at the door of the recession, reports USA Today. "I think it's economic shock," says the lead researcher. "Marriage is an achievement that you enter into when you're ready. But in the meantime, life happens." The number of unmarried fathers living with a partner, meanwhile, snuck up from 18% in 2002 to 25% in 2006-2010, notes the study.
But it's also a sign of evolving attitudes: Whereas cohabiting parenthood used to be largely the domain of high school dropouts, experts are seeing a spike in the education levels of new moms who cohabit. "You have women in that middle-educated group who want to start families and potentially don't find themselves in a stable enough economic position to want to make the move into marriage," says a Cornell sociologist. "They're kind of starting their families in a two-parent context, but outside the bounds of marriage."