From JoNel Aleccia:
“It’s becoming more acceptable to be in a long-term, committed relationship without a legal document,” says Pamela J. Smock, director and research professor at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
By the time they’re 20, 1 in 4 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. have lived with a man, and by the time they’re 30, that ratio climbs to 3 in 4, the new study shows.
“The question becomes not who cohabits, but who doesn’t?” Smock says.
The survey relies primarily on information from a sample of 12,279 women interviewed between 2006 and 2010 as part of the federal National Survey of Family Growth, with data from previous reports in 1995 and 2002….
Between 1995 and 2006 to 2010, first-time cohabitation jumped by 43 percent for white women, 57 percent for Hispanic women and 39 percent for black women, the study showed. Only Asian women stayed the same, with about 22 percent cohabiting during both time periods.
About 70 percent of women with less than a high-school education moved in with a man as a first union in 2006 to 2010, up from 46 percent in 1995. For women with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 47 percent now live together first, up from about 34 percent in 1995, the study shows.
For all women in the study, cohabitation relationships lasted longer: They averaged 22 months in 2006 to 2010, up from 13 months in 1995.
Those longer relationships include the nearly 20 percent of women who became pregnant in their first year of living with a man outside of marriage. Nearly a quarter of recent births among women ages 15 to 44 occurred while they were cohabiting, up from about 14 percent in 2002.
Such figures are likely unsettling to traditionalists in society. “People will see this as a continued displacement of the importance of marriage,” Smock says.
Indeed, the percentage of women whose first union was a marriage fell to 23 percent in the recent figures, down from 39 percent in 1995, the study shows.