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Cohabitation Is Lasting Longer, Becoming More Common, Report

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Forget marriage? Not exactly, but according to a new survey, cohabitating with a significant other is practically a prerequisite for walking down the aisle later on. The survey also showed that younger women are more likely to be living with a significant other than they are to be living alone or living with a spouse, reported the Los Angeles Times. If you're a member of this demographic, this data may seem like common sense, but it represents a marked change over the last 20 years.

The report, which was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 4th, used data collected from phone interviews with 12,279 women between 2006 and 2010 for the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). All of the women surveyed were between the ages of 15 and 44. Men were interviewed as well, but this report focused primarily on the data collected from women. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Forty-eight percent of the women surveyed reported that they were unmarried and cohabitating with a significant other. In 1995, only 34 percent of women reported the same.
  • Lots of women get pregnant while they're living with a significant other. Nearly 20 percent of cohabitating ladies got pregnant within one year of said cohabitation.
  • The increase in premarital cohabitation was fairly universal. The CDC found that women of all races were more likely to be living with a significant other now, with the exception Asian women.
  • More educated women were less likely to shack up with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. Only 47 percent of women with at least a bachelor's degree reported cohabitating, in contrast to 70 percent of women who had not received a high school diploma.
  • Cohabitation is definitely a stepping stone for many on the way to marriage -- but not for everyone. Forty percent of first premarital cohabitations became marriages within three years. Thirty-two percent stayed cohabitation situations after three years, and 27 percent of cohabitating couples surveyed had broken up during that time.
  • White women had the shortest premarital cohabitations on average (19 months). Hispanic women who were born outside of the United States had the longest on average (33 months).

The results seem to support a link between socioeconomics and aversion to marriage. A December 2011 study conducted by researchers from Cornell University and the University of Central Oklahoma also found that lower-income women were less likely to get married or express a desire to get married. "For poorer women who tended to feel that marriage was a trap, many reported fearing that a legal union would lead to extra work and responsibilities on their part, without any additional benefits," reported TIME.

But while some may cohabitate out of a fear of or aversion to marriage, others simply see it as a necessary step in a romantic relationship. Blogger Natasha Burton wrote about her own experience of cohabitation in a blog for The Huffington Post in April 2012:

Some may scoff at cohabitation by calling it "playing house," demoting it from the important role it serves relationships like mine. For my boyfriend and I, there's an altar in the distance, but we're not rushing toward it. Our relationship is a romance, yes, but it's also a partnership that we're continuing to build on commitment and trust. Isn't that something worth cultivating and protecting by taking it step-by-step?

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