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Cohabitation Of Unmarried Couples On The Rise As Marriage Rates Decline

Real state agents will be running into more unmarried couples who want to live together or already are doing so, according to new research from the Pew Research Center.

Some couples might never plan to tie the knot — not with the person they are living with, or with anyone else, for that matter — agents who frown on cohabitation on moral or religious grounds might want to start figuring how they will handle these kinds of situations should a house-hunting unmarried couple come along.

According to the survey from Pew, living together without a ring on the finger is more acceptable than ever. And that’s a good thing, because these kinds of living arrangements are becoming more common.

Citing data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey — a monthly survey of about 60,000 households conducted by Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics — Pew reports that 53 percent of adults ages 18 and older are currently married, down from 58 percent in 1995. Over the same period, the share of Americans living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3 percent to 7 percent.

But results from the National Survey of Family Growth produced by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that among adults ages 18 to 44, 59 percent have lived with an unmarried partner at some point in their lives, while 50 percent have never been married. By contrast, according to Pew’s reading of the numbers, a decade ago, 54 percent of adults in this age group had cohabited and 60 percent had married.

Most adults ages 18 to 44 who have cohabited – 62 percent, according to the Pew survey — have only ever lived with one partner, but 38 percent have had two or more partners over the course of their lives.

As the trend toward living together has gained steam, more and more folks find it acceptable, says Nikki Graf, a research associate at Pew.

More than two-thirds of Americans say there’s nothing wrong with living together, even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married. Just 16 percent find it acceptable as long as the couple intends to marry, and only 14 percent believe it’s never acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together

As you might expect, younger adults are more likely than their older counterparts to find it acceptable for an unmarried couple to live in joint residency. Almost four out of five people (80 percent) younger than age 30 say that cohabitation is acceptable even if the couple doesn’t plan to marry; this compares with 71 percent of those ages 30 to 49, 65 percent of those 50 to 64 and 63 percent of those 65 and older.

Interestingly, people are close to being evenly divided on the societal benefits of living together without a marriage license. A narrow majority of 53 percent say that society is better off if couples who want to stay together long-term eventually get married, Pew reported, while 46 percent say society is just as well off if they decide not to marry.

Pew also found that finances and convenience are the major reasons someone moves in with a partner. Some 38 percent cited money and 37 convenience. In contrast, just 13 percent of married adults say they got hitched because of finances and only 10 percent did so out of convenience.

Many non-engaged cohabiters who want to marry someday cite finances as a reason why they’re not yet engaged or married. About three-in-ten cite their partner’s or their own lack of financial readiness, at about 28 percent each, as a major reason why they’re not engaged or married to their current partner. But more say it’s their partner, not them, as the hangup that’s holding them back.

About a quarter say their partner not being ready financially is a minor reason, and almost three-in-ten say the same about their own finances. More than four-in-ten say not being far enough along in their job or career is at least a minor reason why they’re not engaged or married to their partner.

Ah, but love still counts for something, Graf reports: Among both married and cohabiting adults, their heartstrings and companionship top the list of reasons why they decided to get married or to move in with their partner. Nine-in-ten married adults and 73 percent of cohabiting adults say love was a major factor in their decision. About two-thirds of married adults and 61 percent of cohabiting adults cite companionship as a major factor.