Cohabitation in the United States
Cohabitation in the United States is loosely defined as two or more people, in an intimate relationship, who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union. Cohabitation of unmarried couples totals about 8.1 million couples who live together in the United States as of 2011. It is illegal in three states (Mississippi, Florida, and Michigan).
In most parts of the United States, there is no legal registration or definition of cohabitation, so demographers have developed various methods of identifying cohabitation and measuring its prevalence. The Census Bureau, currently describes an "unmarried partner" as a "person age 15 years and over, who is not related to the householder, who shares living quarters, and who has a close personal relationship with the householder." Before 1995, the Bureau identified any "unrelated" opposite-sex couple living with no other adults as "POSSLQs", or Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. and the Bureau still report these numbers to show historical trends. However, such measures should be taken loosely, as researchers report that cohabitation often does not have clear start and end dates, as people move in and out of each other's homes and sometimes do not agree on the definition of their living arrangement at a particular moment.
In 2005, the Census Bureau reported 4.85 million cohabiting couples, up more than ten times from 1960, when there were 439,000 such couples. The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth found that more than half of all women aged 15 to 44 have lived with an unmarried partner, and that 65% of American couples who did cohabit got married within 5 years.
In 2011, the Census Bureau reported 7.6 million opposite-sex cohabiting couples in the country with a separate report listing the number of cohabiting same-sex couples at 514,735 as of the 2010 Census.
The cohabiting population includes all age groups, but the average cohabiting age group is between 25-34.
In 2003 a study was made of premarital cohabitation of women who are in a monogamous relationship. The study showed "women who are committed to one relationship, who have both premarital sex and cohabit only with the man they eventually marry, have no higher incidence of divorce than women who abstain from premarital sex and cohabitation. For women in this category, premarital sex and cohabitation with their eventual husband are just two more steps in developing a committed, long-term relationship." Teachman's findings report instead that "It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. This effect is strongest for women who have multiple premarital coresidental unions."
A survey, conducted by researchers at Denver University (2009), of over 1,000 married men and women in the United States found those who moved in with a lover before engagement or marriage reported significantly lower quality marriages and a greater possibility for splitting up than other couples. About 20 percent of those who cohabited before getting engaged had since suggested divorce - compared with only 12 percent of those who only moved in together after getting engaged and 10 percent who did not cohabit prior to the wedding bells.
Psychologist Dr. Galena Rhoades said: "There might be a subset of people who live together before they got engaged who might have decided to get married really based on other things in their relationship - because they were already living together and less because they really wanted and had decided they wanted a future together. We think some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting."
Some people[who?] have claimed that those who live together before marriage report having less satisfying marriages and have a higher chance of separating. A possible explanation for this trend could be that people who cohabit prior to marriage did so because of apprehension towards commitment, and when, following marriage, marital problems arose (or, for that matter, before marriage, when relationship problems arose during the cohabitation arrangement), this apprehension was more likely to translate into an eventual separation. It should be noted this model cites antecedent apprehension concerning commitment as the cause of increased break-ups and cohabitation only as an indicator of such apprehension. Another explanation is that those who choose not to cohabit prior to marriage are often more conservative in their religious views and may hold more traditional views on gender roles, a mindset that might prevent them from divorcing for religious reasons or confronting crisis in relationships despite experiencing marital problems no less severe than those encountered by former cohabitants.
In addition, the very act of living together may lead to attitudes that make happy marriages more difficult. The findings of one recent study, for example, suggest "there may be less motivation for cohabiting partners to develop their conflict resolution and support skills." (One important exception: cohabiting couples who are already planning to marry each other in the near future have just as good a chance at staying together as couples who don’t live together before marriage).
A 2001 study of 1,000 adults indicated that people who cohabited experienced a divorce rate 50% higher after marriage than those who did not, though this may be correlation and not cause-and-effect. A subsequent study performed by the National Center for Health Statistics with a sample size of over 12,000 individuals found that there was no significant difference in divorce rate between cohabitating and non-cohabitating individuals.
In 2011, The National Marriage Project reported that about 2⁄3 of children with cohabiting parents would see them break up before they were 12 years old. About 1⁄4 of children of married couples would experience this by age 12.
Some places, including the state of California, have laws that recognize cohabiting couples as "domestic partners". In California, such couples are defined as people who "have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring," including having a "common residence, and are the same sex or persons of opposite sex if one or both of the persons are over the age of 62". This recognition led to the creation of a Domestic Partners Registry, granting them limited legal recognition and some rights similar to those of married couples.
Today three states (Mississippi, Florida, and Michigan) have laws on their books against cohabitation by opposite-sex couples, although anti-cohabitation laws are generally not enforced. Many legal scholars believe that in light of in Lawrence v. Texas, such laws making cohabitation illegal are unconstitutional (North Carolina Superior Court judge Benjamin Alford struck down the North Carolina law as unconstitutional on that basis). The Supreme Court of Virginia found the commonwealth's (unenforced) law making fornication (sex between unmarried persons) unconstitutional in Martin v. Ziherl.
The charge of "unlawful cohabitation" was used in the late nineteenth century to enforce the Edmunds Act, and other federal anti-polygamy laws against the Mormons in the Utah Territory, imprisoning more than 1,300 men. However, incidents of cohabitation by non-polygamists were not charged in that territory at that time. Some modern scholarship suggests the Edmunds Act may be unconstitutional for being in violation of the Free Exercise Clause, although the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that neutral laws that happen to impinge on some religious practices are constitutional.
- Domestic partnership in the United States
- Marriage in the United States
- Divorce in the United States
- Society of the United States
- American family structure
- Cohabitation Law & , Legal Definition. USLegal. Retrieved on October 17, 2012
- See "Household Type and Relationship".
- See "Current Population Survey (CPS) - Definitions and Explanations"
- Manning, Wendy D. and Pamela J. Smock. 2005. "Measuring and Modeling Cohabitation: New Perspectives from Qualitative Data." Journal of Marriage and Family 67(4):989-1002.
- Anne-Marie Ambert: Cohabitation and Marriage: How Are They Related?. The Vanier Institute of the Family, Fall 2005)
- "Report: Most Couples Living Together Marry". Retrieved 2010-03-11.
- "America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2011, Table UC1". United States Census Bureau. November 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
- "Census Bureau Releases Estimates of Same-Sex Married Couples". United States Census Bureau. September 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
- Cohabitation is replacing dating USA Today 7/17/2005
- Jay Teachman (2003), "Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution Among Women", Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2), 444–455.
- "Premarital Sex, Cohabitation, and Divorce: the Broken Link" (Press release). National Council on Family Relations. 2003.
- "Couples who live together before marriage more likely to get divorced". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2009-07-16.
- "The Top Ten Myths of Marriage" (Press release). National Marriage Project. 2002.
- Martin, Paige D. (Fall 2001). "Adolescent Premarital Sexual Activity, Cohabitation, and Attitudes Toward Marriage". BNET. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- Jayson, Sharon (October 14, 2010). "Report: Cohabiting has little effect on marriage success" USA Today. Retrieved on 2/29/2012
- Domestic Partners Registry
- Miss. Code 97-29-1, Fl. St. 798.02, Mi. St. 750.335
- See "Judge strikes down law banning cohabitation" and "N.C. law banning cohabitation struck down".
- U.S.History.com, Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882.
- "The Practice of Polygamy: Legitimate Free Exercise of Religion or Legitimate Public Menace? Revisiting Reynolds in Light of Modern Constitutional Jurisprudence". Retrieved 2008-02-04.
- E.g., Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).
- Pleck, Elizabeth H. Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation After the Sexual Revolution (University of Chicago Press; 2012) 290 pages; Explores the continued bias and stigma against heterosexual cohabitation in American law and custom despite the practice becoming extremely common.