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Cohabitation Is New Normal for Young Families

A report from the National Center for Health Statistics issued today shows that more unmarrieds are cohabitating and more are having kids before marriage. According to USA Today, nearly half of women (48 percent) ages 15–44 cohabited before marriage; less than one-quarter (23 percent) of women were married before they lived with their partner.

The average duration of first cohabitation is 22 months, and 19 percent of women become pregnant and give birth during the first year of cohabitation.

“The United States has long had the shortest cohabiting relationships of any wealthy nation and now these relationships are lengthening,” says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Within three years of cohabiting, 40 percent of women had transitioned to marriage; 32 percent remained living together; 27 percent had broken up.

“What we’re seeing here is the emergence of children within cohabiting unions among the working class and the poor,” Cherlin says. “They have high standards for marriage and they don’t think they can meet them for now, but increasingly, it’s not stopping them from having a child. Having children within cohabiting unions is much more common among everybody but the college educated.”

Interviews were conducted in person with nearly 13,000 women between the ages of 15–44. Read the full brief from the Centers for Disease Control here.

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including churchleaders.com and SermonCentral.com.