Everyone cry for what is quickly becoming the new normal in the United States. It used to be that Natalie Portman strutting around the Oscars with her pregnant belly and her fiancé was enough to ruffle some people’s feathers. Now, it’s not only the common scenario for a lot of women — but it appears to be working out. For now.
USA Today reports that straight unmarried couples are not only living together and procreating more — they’re also staying together longer than they have in the past. According to in-person interviews of over 12,000 women (aged 15-44) between 2006 and 2010, almost half of these ladies moved in with a dude as their “first union.” Casey Copen, a demographer and the report’s lead author, describes this as a “kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now.” But even more importantly, the report concludes that:
“Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage,”
The longevity of these relationships is news to the federal government because this is the first time they’re providing “detailed data” on how long these first unions/cohabitation relationships/unmarried heathenites are staying together. Turns out, in this particular study, only a little over a quarter of these relationships failed. The rest just kept right on going:
Within three years of cohabiting, 40% of women had transitioned to marriage; 32% remained living together; 27% had broken up.
And, in keeping consistent with a lot of marriage data that is already out there, education and social status is proving to be a common link:
The new data show 70% of women without a high school diploma cohabited as a first union, compared with 47% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among women ages 22-44 with higher education, their cohabitations were more likely to transition to marriage within years (53%), compared with 30% for those who didn’t graduate high school.
“What we’re seeing here is the emergence of children within cohabiting unions among the working class and the poor,” [ sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore] says. “They have high standards for marriage and they don’t think they can meet them for now, but increasingly, it’s not stopping them from having a child. Having children within cohabiting unions is much more common among everybody but the college educated.”
According to another demographer, Mark Mather, of the Population Reference Bureau, “instability” tends to be a lot more common to those without a degree. He’s even so confident as to say that higher education is the “main determining factor of whether this [relationship] is a transition to marriage or maybe a short-term union.”
Hey, look, Susan A. Patton – yet another reason to go to college!