There are some curious things going on with cohabitation and marriage that seem to tell two different stories.
First, the folks at Pew recently told us (see p. 36) that young adults have the strongest desire to marry of any generation alive today. Other data supports this. And the unmarried folks in other generations are not, nor have ever been, disinterested in marriage.
But unmarried cohabitation is the fastest growing family/domestic form in the United States as well as most of the Western world. It’s exploding, having increased 15-fold since 1960. And that growth has more than doubled in real numbers since the mid-1990s in the U.S. and by much more than that in other countries. In fact, more than 60 percent of marriages today are preceded by some form of cohabitation.
Young adults are pro-marriage, but cohabitation is sky-rocketing. Is this ironic, or does it make complete sense?
I address this curious question — and many others — in my latest book, The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage. In preparation for writing this book, I carefully collected and read nearly all the leading published academic studies on cohabitation published over the past 30 years. Yes, I’m a sad research nerd. And my book explains in plain, straightforward language what this impressive body of literature teaches us.
Most people cohabiting today (75%) see their live-in relationship as some kind of step toward marriage, and 62 percent of young adults believe cohabiting before marriage is a good way to avoid divorce. Very few are cohabiting with no eye toward marriage. And these marriage-minded folks are either cohabiting as a test drive of a potential marriage or are cohabiting with Mr. or Mrs. I Don’t Think So as a place holder until Mr. or Mrs. Right comes along.
But how wise of an idea is cohabitation? Is there a track record to examine? These are critical questions to ask because many millions of people are doing it and in dramatically increasing numbers.
Well, the good news is we don’t have to wonder about strong, reliable answers to those questions. An absolute wealth of social science research by leading sociologists and demographers of the family are telling us much about the consequences of living together before marriage. Here are some of the most startling findings: . . .
Read the rest here.