THURSDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Many more American women
are living with their partners rather than tying the knot, a new
government survey finds.
And they live together longer than couples in the recent past,
and many more get pregnant before marriage, according to the survey
released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics,
which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Nearly half of women aged 15 to 44 years old "cohabited" outside
of marriage between 2006 and 2010, compared with 43 percent in 2002
and 34 percent in 1995. The report is based on in-person interviews
with more than 12,000 women in that age group.
One reason more people are living together is a well-documented
delay in the age at which people are marrying, said study lead
author Casey Copen, a demographer with the National Center for
"Cohabiting couples may be waiting for improved financial stability before they make a decision to marry and, in the process, become pregnant and have a baby," she said. "As you cohabit longer, there's more of a chance to become pregnant."
Many of these arrangements occur at a young age, with
one-quarter of women cohabiting by age 20 and three-quarters saying
they had lived with a partner by age 30.
During the first year of living together, nearly 20 percent
became pregnant and went on to give birth, according to the
Along with this trend, fewer women reported getting married in
the period from 2006 to 2010 than in either 2002 or 1995 (23
percent, 30 percent and 39 percent, respectively). Of those who
became pregnant the first year, 19 percent got married within six
months of the pregnancy, versus 32 percent in 1995.
Education and income play a role in how long women cohabit and
whether they get pregnant or marry, Copen said.
"Those who have less than a high school degree are cohabiting for longer periods of time," Copen said. "Women who have a bachelor's degree or higher are more likely to move into marriage."
Less educated women were also more likely to become pregnant
while they were living with their partner.
The rate of cohabitation increased in all racial and ethnic
groups except for Asian women.
Here are some highlights of the report:
It's not clear what effect these trends may have on the health
of families, women and children. Previous research has shown that
people who are living together -- married or not -- tend to be
healthier both physically and mentally, Copen said.
Children tend to be happier and healthier the more stable their
parents' union is, regardless of whether the "union" has been
formalized or not, she added.
This study did not look at how long couples stayed together
beyond three years.
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