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More Children Living Under Unmarried Households, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 04, 2013 10:41 AM EDT

In today's society, having children out of wedlock is not as stigmatized and shunned upon any more. With more and more celebrities having babies but choosing not to wed on the rise, it appears that people are also following this trend. According to a recent report using federal data, couples that live together but are not married are staying together a lot longer than previous couples. These unmarried couples are also choosing to have children more frequently than the past. The report, which was compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, revealed how families across America are changing the norms.

The report looked at 12,279 women from 2006 to 2010 who were between the ages of 15 to 44. The National Center for Health Statistics held in-person interviews and asked the participants questions about their unions and families. The researchers found that for nearly half of these women, 48 percent of them, their first recorded union was cohabitation. In 2002, the percentage of women who lived with men was 43 percent and in 1995, that percentage was just 34. Only 23 percent of the women stated that their first union was marriage. This percentage confirms the steady decline in marriage as the first union. The percentage in 1995 was 39 and then it dropped to 30 percent in 2002.

"Instead of marriage, people are moving into cohabitation as a first union. It's kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now," the report's lead author and demographer, Casey Copen stated.

Aside from cohabitation, the researchers also looked at other statistics. They found that 19 percent of the women who lived with their boyfriends had a child within the first year of living together. The researchers also found that after cohabiting for three years, 40 percent of women ended up married to their boyfriends while 27 percent of the couples broke up. 32 percent of women continued to live with their boyfriends without any dramatic changes.

In order to understand how this trend is growing, the researchers looked at the role of education. They found that cohabitation occurred more frequently in women who did not have a high school diploma. 47 percent of women with a bachelor's degree or higher chose to cohabitate first. The report also revealed that women who had higher levels of education between the ages of 22 to 44 had a 53 percent rate of transitioning to marriage whereas that rate was just 30 percent for women without higher education.

"Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage," the report noted.

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