Older Cohabitations Increasing
Special Report - August 17, 2012
A new study has found that the number of cohabiting adults older than 50 has doubled since the turn of the century, with cohabitation tending to be an alternative to marriage for older Americans. The study by researchers at Bowling Green State University found that 2.75 million adults over 50 were cohabiting in 2010. Researchers used “data from the 1998-2006 Health and Retirement Study.”
The study opens with the acknowledgment that “A majority of marriages are preceded by cohabitation, yet a minority of cohabiting unions are formalized through marriage.” According to the authors, this fact demonstrates that, “Cohabitation is now the modal path to marriage and fully accounts for the delay in marriage entry.” Among the study's primary findings related to the formation of unions later in life are:
- Only a small percentage (four percent) of single adults over 50 entered a cohabiting or marriage relationship.
- Men were much more likely to enter into a cohabiting union than women, with the odds of a woman transitioning to cohabitation 56 percent lower than the odds for men. Woman had 63 percent lower odds of transitioning to marriage than did men.
- Those who had never been married were more likely to form a cohabiting union over marriage.
- Widows were more likely to marry than to cohabitate.
- Older couples who did form “a union were as likely to be in a cohabiting relationship as a marriage.”
- Those “who formed either a cohabiting or marital union were more likely to report their own health as excellent or very good than those who remained single.”
- Cohabiters “reported lower levels of religiosity, on average, than those who either married or remained unpartnered.”
- Cohabitation in later life “appears to operate as a long-term alternative to marriage.” Older cohabiting couples’ relationships “were quite stable and unlikely to culminate in either marriage or separation.”
The study compares the cohabitation rates and stability of older adults with younger adults, concluding that, “Cohabitations among older persons are clearly much less fragile than they are among younger persons, even though they rarely lead to marriage. Cohabitation certainly appears to be an alternative to marriage, rather than a prelude to marriage, among older people.” The average duration of cohabitating relationships at the start of the data collection in 1998 was more than eight years. During the following eight years, less than one-fifth of those relationships ended in separation, while only 12 percent led to marriage.
Cohabiting With Children - FNC - Summer 2012
Cohabitation Linked To Unstable Families - August 17, 2011
Census Report Examines Cohabitation - November 9, 2010
Marriage Beats Cohabitation - March 5, 2010
Most Children Live With Parents - July 27, 2010
Characteristics of Cohabiting Adults Studied - July 16, 2009
Report Analyzes Cohabitation Effects - June 23, 2008
How Cohabitation Undermines Marriage and the Family - Findings - June 2005
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