A new study finds that cohabitation is becoming increasingly popular in the US, with more unmarried couples living together longer and having children together. USA Today breaks out some of the big findings from the federal study:
- For 48% of women ages 15 to 44, their "first union" was cohabitation, not marriage. That's up from 43% in 2002 and 34% in 1995.
- Marriage was the first union for just 23% of women, compared to 30% in 2002 and 39% in 1995.
- Within the first year of their first unmarried cohabitation, 19% of women had a child.
- And within three years of moving in together, 40% of women had gotten married. Another 32% continued cohabitating, while 27% broke up.
- Cohabitation is lasting longer: The median length of the first cohabitation is now 22 months, an increase from 20 months in 2002 and 13 months in 1995. That's a reversal for the US, which "has long had the shortest cohabiting relationships of any wealthy nation," says a sociologist.
Demographers say education is an important factor: Women who didn't graduate from high school are much more likely to have cohabitation as their first union. And women with higher education are more likely to transition into marriage from cohabitation. As for having kids together, "What we're seeing here is the emergence of children within cohabiting unions among the working class and the poor," says the sociologist. "Having children within cohabiting unions is much more common among everybody but the college educated."