Cohabitation & Marriage

Benefits Of The Success Sequence For Self-Sufficiency And Family Stability
Since the early 2000s, researchers and policymakers have used the term ‘Success Sequence’ to describe a policy approach for reducing poverty and improving economic opportunity for adolescents and young adults. The term refers to a series of milestones in life—most commonly defined to include high school completion, full-time employment, and waiting for marriage to have children—that are associated with escaping poverty and joining the middle class. These milestones are described as a sequence to emphasize that their order also matters. This report presents an analysis of that success sequence (2021).

Rising Share Of U.S. Adults Are Living Without A Spouse Or Partner
In 2019, 38% of U.S. adults ages 25 to 54 were not living with a romantic partner, up from 29% in 1990, according to a new analysis of census data. Men are now more likely than women to be unpartnered, which wasn’t the case 30 years ago. Across a range of measures of economic and social status, unpartnered adults generally have different outcomes – often worse – than those who are married or cohabiting (2021).

Less Poverty, Less Prison, More College: What Two Parents Mean For Black and White Children
It is no “myth” to point out that boys and girls are more likely to flourish today in America if they are raised in a stable, two-parent home. Consistent with a longstanding social scientific consensus about family structure, children are significantly more likely to avoid poverty and prison, and to graduate from college, if they are raised in an intact two-parent family. This association remains true for both black and white children. (2021)

Does Cohabitation Compensate for Marriage Decline?
The rise in cohabitation coupled with the decline in marriage during young adulthood means young adults are still forming coresidential relationships. However, among young adults, cohabitation no longer offsets the decline in marriage because cohabitation has plateaued. The result has been that fewer women have formed unions. (2021)

Trends in Cohabitation Prior to Marriage
Five decades ago, living with a partner before entering marriage was rare, but today it is common. Over the last 50 years, the share of women who cohabited before marriage has risen almost sevenfold and recently reached a historic highpoint. Cohabitation prior to marriage increased from about one in ten (11%) among women who married in 1965-1974 to approaching eight in ten (76%) among women who married in the last five years (2015-2019).(2021)

Marriage and Divorce Decline During COVID-19
The decline in marriage and divorce was evident prior to the pandemic, but it remains unknown whether these patterns have persisted during the pandemic. We compared monthly marriage and divorce counts for two years prior to the pandemic (2018 and 2019), and during the pandemic for the five states that published monthly vital statistics data for 2020 (2021).

Is Marriage Good for Your Health?
Here’s a chicken-or-egg problem: Research shows married people enjoy better health. But why? Is it because marriage is good for your health and encourages healthier behavior, or because healthier individuals are more likely to get married? A study published in the September issue of the journal Personal Relationships, written by Cortez and colleagues, investigates the link between being healthy or unhealthy and getting married (2020).

Thirty Years of Changing Cohabitation Experience in the U.S.
This Family Profile documents shifts in the percentage of women who have ever cohabited over the past thirty years (1987 to 2017). The trend of increases in cohabitation has recently stalled, indicating a plateau in cohabitation experience in the United States. Due to the relatively short duration of cohabiting unions (about 2 years), it is important to examine changes in women’s experiences of cohabitation and not just their status at the time of interview (2020).

Marriage Trends Across Racial Groups and Economic Backgrounds
Researchers from the University of Michigan examine the family formation in the United States. Changes are dramatic; marriage has become less common, non-marital cohabitation has become more common, and racial and economic inequalities in these experiences have increased. The article provides insights into recent U.S. trends by presenting cohort estimates for people born between 1970 and 1997, who began forming unions between 1985 and 2015 (2020).

High School Seniors’ Attitudes Towards Cohabitation and Marriage
Although the share of high school seniors who expect to marry at some point in the future has remained constant over the past four decades, the share of adults who do marry has decreased significantly, indicating a disconnect between marital expectations and behavior.
FP-19-12 – High School Seniors’ Ideal Time for Marriage, 2017
FP-19-11 – High School Seniors’ Expectations to Marry, 2017
FP-19-10 – High School Seniors’ Attitudes Toward Cohabitation as a Testing Ground for Marriage, 2017

Less Stable, Less Important: Cohabiting Families’ Perspectives Across the Globe
A growing number of children in developed countries today are being raised by parents who are living together but not married. Some argue that cohabiting parents provide a family environment that is comparable to a married household, given that the children are being raised by two adults. However, a new survey of 11 developed countries shows that large shares of cohabiting couples with children under age 18 doubt that their current relationship will last, especially in comparison to married parents. Moreover, cohabiting parents in most countries are less likely than married parents to see their relationship as a vital part of their life. (2019)

Divorce, Co-Parenting and Kids
About one in three children living in the United States are growing up in a single-parent home. And among divorced couples with young children, moms are still more likely to have custody of kids after a split. New research supports the theory that when moms and dads maintain a better co-parenting relationship, kids may be less likely to act out. (2019)

Cross-National Comparisons of Union Stability in Cohabiting and Married Families With Children
Increases in cohabitation, nonmarital childbearing, and partnership dissolution have reshaped the family landscape in most Western countries. The United States shares many features of family change common elsewhere, although it is exceptional in its high degree of union instability. In this study, we use the Harmonized Histories to provide a rich, descriptive account of union instability among couples who have had a child together in the United States and several European countries. (2019)

The Economics of Non-Marital Childbearing and The “Marriage Premium for Children”
A large literature exists on the impact of family structure on children’s outcomes, typically focusing on average effects. We build on this with an economic framework that has heterogeneous predictions regarding the potential benefit for children of married parents. We propose that the gains to marriage from a child’s perspective depend on a mother’s own level of resources, the additional net resources that her partner would bring, and the outcome-specific returns to resources. In terms of high school completion or avoiding poverty at age 25, the “marriage premium for children” is highest for children of mothers with high school degrees and mothers in their early/mid-20s. For the more advanced outcomes of college completion or high income at age 25, the marriage premium is monotonically increasing with observed maternal age and education. (2019)

Cohabitation, Churning, and Children’s Diverging Destinies
Heather Rackin and Christina Gibson-Davis’s recent study highlights one of the mechanisms through which today’s family patterns result in greater economic difficulties: cohabitation. Rackin and Gibson-Davis explain how the rise in cohabitation has disadvantaged children of lower and moderately-educated mothers more than children whose mothers have a college degree. (2018)

Decision to Live Together Negatively Affects Wealth Accumulation
The study, published in the Journal of Financial Planning, found people who cohabited had less wealth compared with those who never lived together before marriage. The gap in wealth grew significantly for those who cohabited multiple times. (2018)

Mental Well-Being Differences in Cohabitation and Marriage: The Role of Childhood Selection
This study demonstrates the importance of early childhood conditions for understanding the relationship between cohabitation, marriage, and mental well-being. It provides further evidence that early childhood conditions are important for understanding later life well-being. Overall the results suggest that to improve mental well-being, policy makers should focus on reducing the adverse effects of disadvantage in childhood and improving mental well-being in adolescence rather than increasing incentives to marry in adulthood.  (2018)

Divorce Rate in U.S. Drops to Nearly 40-Year Low
The U.S. divorce rate dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years. Marriage rates, on the other hand, increased last year. In 2015, there were 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women age 15 or older, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. (2017)

The Millennial Success Sequence: Marriage, Kids, and the ‘Success Sequence’ Among Young Adults
Marriage before children is no longer the norm in the United States. More than half — 55 percent — of parents between the ages of 28 and 34 were not married when they had their first child. Some of these millennial parents later married, while others remain unmarried. (2017)

Cohabitation and Intimate Partner Violence During Emerging Adulthood
In recent years, a majority of young adults experience cohabitation. Nevertheless, cohabitation is a risk factor for intimate partner violence (IPV). This study found that socio-demographic characteristics, relationship commitment, quality, and constraints as well as prior experience with violence (in prior relationships and family of origin) were associated with IPV, but did not explain the association between cohabitation and IPV. (2017)

Marriage Trends: Baby Boomers vs. Millennials
From the National Center for Family and Marriage Research:
In 1980, the majority (68%) of Baby Boomers aged 25-34 were married. However, in 2015, only 40% of Millennials were married. In 2015, the majority of Millennials had never married (53%) compared to 20% of Baby Boomers in 1980. (2017)

Cohabitating Parents Differ from Married Ones in Three Big Ways
To understand what lies behind the “stability gap” between married and cohabiting parents, it is therefore useful to look at the other ways in which married and cohabiting couples differ, aside from marital status. In this paper, we examine three factors in particular—intendedness of childbearing, levels of education, and earnings—and show stark differences between cohabiting and married parents. Most married parents planned their pregnancy; most cohabiting couples did not. Married parents are also, on average, much better educated and earn much more than cohabiting parents. (2017)