Friday, April 05, 2013

First Union: Cohabitation or Marriage?

The First Union. That's the term used by the National Center for Health Statistics to describe the first time a young couple sets up house together. Over the past few decades the most common arrangement for the first union has shifted from marriage to cohabitation.

Among women aged 15 to 44 in 2006-10, nearly half (48 percent) reported that their first union was cohabitation and a smaller 23 percent reported marriage. (The remaining women in the age group had not yet experienced a first union.) In 1995, 34 percent of women aged 15 to 44 reported that their first union was cohabitation and a slightly larger 39 percent reported marriage.

Although cohabitation is more common than marriage in every educational attainment group, there are interesting differences in the numbers. Among women with a high school diploma and no further education, 62 percent reported cohabitation as their first union. Among women with a bachelor's degree, the figure was a smaller 47 percent--but still greater than the 35 percent who reported marriage.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, First Premarital Cohabitation in the United States: 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth

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