January 6, 2011

Cohabitation a Step Toward Marriage?

64%

Among Americans who have ever lived with an unmarried partner, nearly two-thirds say they thought about it as a step toward marriage.

Among Americans who have ever lived with an unmarried partner, nearly two-thirds (64%) say they thought about it as a step toward marriage. That includes 53% of those now living with a partner, compared with 67% of those who cohabited in the past. There are no significant differences by age, race or gender on this question, among people who ever lived with a partner. Adults with annual incomes of $75,000 or more (69%) are more likely than those with annual incomes under $30,000 (59%) to say they saw cohabitation as a step toward marriage. And, as might be expected, a higher share of married former cohabiters (74%) say they viewed living together as a step toward marriage, compared with currently unmarried people who have ever cohabited (56%). Some 70% of self-described conservatives say they thought about cohabiting as a step toward marriage, compared with 59% of liberals and 66% of moderates. The least religious Americans (defined as seldom or never going to services) also are least likely to have thought of cohabiting as a step toward marriage (53%) compared with 72% of the moderately religious (attending services monthly) and 74% of the very religious (attending services at least weekly). As for the marital intentions of people who currently are cohabiting, 69% say they expect they will someday marry that person, 25% say they don’t expect to and 6% don’t know or would not answer. Looking at actual experience, about nine-in-ten married people who have cohabited say they lived with their current spouse before they got married — 59% only with their current spouse and 30% with their current spouse and with someone else. Married adults with annual incomes of $75,000 or more who cohabited in the past are notably more likely to have lived only with their current spouse before they got married (67%) than are married people with annual incomes under $30,000 (43%). Lower income adults (48%) are more likely than the higher income adults (26%) to have lived both with their spouse and someone else. Read More