Tag archives: cohabitation

Is Living Together the Same as Marriage? The Latest Research

by Peter Sprigg

July 3, 2014

A growing number of couples are living together in sexual relationships without bothering to marry. Are these relationships essentially the same as marriages? Research over the decades has shown significant differences in these two household forms, and the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics continues that trend.

Here, verbatim, are the “Key findings” in a new report, “Marriage, Cohabitation, and Men’s Use of Preventive Health Care Services.”


Key findings

Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-2012

  • Among men aged 18–64, those who were married were more likely than cohabiting men and other not-married men to have had a health care visit in the past 12 months.
  • Marriage was associated with greater likelihood of a health care visit for both younger and older men, and for men with health insurance.
  • Among those for whom blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, married men were more likely than cohabiting men to have received these clinical preventive services in the past 12 months.
  • Cohabiting men were less likely than other not-married men to have had a health care visit, cholesterol check, or diabetes screening.


The take-away? Men, the next time your wives nag you to go to the doctor — be thankful!

Cohabitation: Preferred? Maybe. Productive? Nope.

by Family Research Council

July 16, 2013

In Friday’s Best of the Web Today, James Taranto referenced a RAND report showing that men and women entering cohabiting relationships have widely differing expectations and attitudes. Among cohabiters aged 18 to 26, 13 percent more men than women lack “near-certainty” about the permanence of their relationship, and 15 percent more men than women reported they weren’t “totally committed” to their partners. However, Taranto notes that among both married men and women, equal (and markedly lower than cohabiting) numbers lacked “near-certainty” that their relationship was permanent.

Clearly, this gap in desires and expectations is problematic. Taranto says that “[i]f cohabitation is better suited to male sexuality … as the RAND study suggests, then one would expect the most attractive men—those with the widest options—to be most able to exercise their preference for the former.” He mentions that this selection of the “best” men into cohabitation would bode ill for the well-being of marriage, as well.

I’ve already blogged for Marriage Generation about why I consider cohabitation the “margarine” of relationship arrangements. I wrote there from a generally theological and personal perspective. My personal essay aside, the data make it very clear that men benefit substantially from marriage, and that non-marriage (avoiding and delaying marriage, which may or may not involve living unmarried with a partner) is harmful to the U.S. economy.

The proofs for these two points (think “proof” in the sense that you used it in tenth grade geometry) exist in the form of a MARRI publication, “Non-Marriage Reduces U.S. Labor Participation: The Abandonment of Marriage Puts America at Risk of a Depression.”

The short version of the explanation is this: unemployment among men across all sorts of employment classes (service-sector workers, sales workers, unskilled laborers, professionals) is lower among those who are married than among those who are single or cohabiting. This gap in unemployment between men of different marital states has persisted across 50 years of labor history, recessions included.

Furthermore, this isn’t a matter of less-employed men being unable to get married (i.e., a so-called selection effect­); it’s a matter of fewer men being trained through the institution of marriage to straighten up, fly right, and hang onto their jobs. Men who are already inclined to work less or who are only able to work less aren’t just shifting into cohabitation or singleness. Were that the case, as marriage declined and as less-employed men dropped out of the highly-employed group of married men, married unemployment would drop even further.

Finally, the difference in the labor habits of those men who are and those who aren’t married, and our culture’s shift away from early and lasting marriage, should be cause for concern—if we’re at all concerned for the health of our economy. These two factors alone account for about half the fall-off in men’s labor participation since the 1960s.

Marriage is a formative institution—to say nothing of the courtship process leading thereto. Speaking as a recently-married twenty-something, I can attest to the fact that there’s something about a girl ruling out the prospect of living together before he puts a ring on it that tends to weed out the slackers and commitment-phobes. And the guy who marries a girl, formally and legally, will become more productive as he works to provide for her and their children than he ever would have otherwise.

So perhaps RAND is right: Perhaps “cohabitation is better suited to male sexuality”—or, at least more appealing to short-term thinking and libido. But the data make clear that marriage is better suited to increasing male productivity; that is, to men developing professionally. Perhaps it’s time we stop treating cohabitation and marriage as though their outcomes for the economy and personal financial well-being (and other matters) are six of one, a half-dozen of the other.

Marriage May Promote Safer, Healthier Pregnancies

by Family Research Council

January 7, 2013

U.S. News and World Report reports via HealthDay that “[c]ompared with unmarried women, married women are less likely to experience domestic abuse, substance abuse or postpartum depression around the time of pregnancy,” according to a study published last month in the American Journal of Public Health by Dr. Marcelo L. Urquia, Patricia J. O’Campo, and Joel G. Ray.

The study, entitled Marital Status, Duration of Cohabitation, and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Childbearing Women: A Canadian Nationwide Survey, was conducted with data on over 6,400 women from the 2006-2007 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey. According to HealthDay’s report, the study found that 67 percent of separated or divorced women and 35 percent of always-single women dealt with domestic abuse, substance abuse, or postpartum depression. Twenty percent of cohabiting women and 10 percent of married women did so, though these problems diminished with duration of cohabitation.

Urquia stated, according to HealthDay, that “30 percent of children in Canada are born to unmarried couples, up from 9 percent in 1971,” and that the distinctions between married and cohabiting families were important, given out-of-wedlock birth’s rise.

The study’s abstract also noted that “[r]esearch on maternal and child health would benefit from distinguishing between married and unmarried cohabiting women, and their duration of cohabitation.” In fact, many studies do not distinguish between cohabiting households and married households and merely label these “two-parent families.”

For more on the benefits of marriage relative to other family structures, see the Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry.

Cohabitation: Everyones doing it?!

by Family Research Council

August 30, 2012

But, mom, everybodys doing it?!

It might have been your favorite childhood expression as you lobbied for that new toy or extra handful of cotton candy.

But for todays millennials its an underlyingif unstatedreason why so many decide to pack up their belongings and move in with their significant other.

According to the CDCs March 22, 2012 National Health Statistics Report, cohabitation (before first marriage) has risen significantly over the past 25 years and contributed to a delay in first marriage for both women and men.

Bloomberg.com reviewed at the data through a personal finance lens in their article, Living Together Trumps Matrimony for Recession-Wary Americans. Quoting theUniversity ofVirginias Brad Wilcox, the article noted that In todays economic climate, many young adults are reluctant to pull the trigger…. They may be unemployed or underemployed or not know what the future looks like. Theyre hedging their bets.

But the cohabitation-trend isnt limited to the younger generation. According to a new study, more and more Americans over age 50 are choosing to live with their partner instead of getting married.

If everyone is doing it, why discuss the trend; or to put it bluntly, who exactly cares?

Since the creation of marriage itself, the Christian tradition has clearly taught that sexual intimacy outside of marriage (and cohabitation, by definition), is a step away from the holiness and commitment that God intends for his people.

Modern Christian leaders, therefore, wrestle through their role in how to council church members or other believers who are cohabiting, but desire to marry. Last September, Christianity Today invited various Evangelical leaders to weigh in on the question: Should Pastors Perform Marriages for Cohabitating Couples?

But the questions surrounding cohabitation continue, even in the public space outside of our churches. In an April NY Times Opinion piece, clinical psychologist Meg Jay warned that far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake or of spending too much time on a mistake.

Earlier this month, Huffington Posts Women Blog highlighted offered the following: Cohabitation? 5 Questions To Ask Before Moving In Together. The author offered no moral qualms about cohabitation but, throughout her piece. noted the inherent obstacles to a successful move, considering how many couples do not survive that first year of living with one another.

Does cohabitation matter? On Thursday, August 30 marriage expert Mike McManus revealed the myths and risks of cohabitation and offered solutions for your church and your community.

Everybodys doing it, never saved you from the childhood bellyache. It may also fall short when it comes to more adult decisions.

Click here to view the video recording.

Living Together Before Marriage: An Idea Whose Time Will Never Come

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 17, 2012

Cohabitation is a rather academic term given to the situation where a man and a woman live together without benefit of marriage.

Cohabitation is common, and becoming more so. According to University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay, “In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.” (Source)

Interesting facts, but so what? Is there harm in living together before marriage?

Dr. Jay, who says of herself that she is “not for or against living together,” nonetheless acknowledges that for “young adults … far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake.” Dr. Jay outlines many of the potential harms of living together without marriage, including a higher risk for divorce once married and less satisfaction in marriage itself.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one year of cohabitation leads to marriage only 27 percent of the time for “non-Hispanic white,” 21 percent for “non-Hispanic black,” and 14 percent for “Hispanic/Latina” women.

In their recent paper “162 Reasons to Marry,” the director of FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute, Dr. Pat Fagan, and two researchers write that, “The future strength of our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital.” Makes sense: God is the author and sanctifier of marriage (Genesis 2:18-25, John 2:1-11), and His reliability has a pretty strong track record (100 percent isn’t bad).

Smart parents and smart societies pay attention to the state and strength of marriage,” writes Dr. Fagan. Good counsel, that. Let’s take it.