Marriage Rates Decline While Births For Cohabitation Couples Increase According To A Recent Study
At Least One Child In Eight Is Born Into A Cohabitation Parent Family. Economic Factors Play Role In Non Marriage Births
A recent study by the Council on Contemporary Families discusses the increase in cohabitating couples and planned children. In births among cohabitating couples have increased 58% from 2006 to 2010. The study also suggests that half of these births were planned. All in all, the rise in cohabitation is well documented, with cohabitation playing an increasingly prominent role in the lives of American adults and children. At least one child in eight is born into a cohabiting parent family, and this rate has doubled over the course of a single decade.
The increase in cohabitating union births leads to the question of why couples are not getting married as frequently as they had in the past. Some insights may be gained from a recent NBC News article which interviews a 34-year-old mother, Anne-Marie Rinaldi, who has been cohabitating with her partner and fellow parent for the past decade. Ms. Rinaldi believes that having a child while cohabitating may become the “new normal.” Ms. Rinaldi believes that in the real marriage isn’t necessary.
This trend away from marriage seems to be happening at a quick rate in the United States. “It’s becoming more acceptable to be in a long-term, committed relationship without a legal document,” says Pamela J. Smock, director and research professor at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
The Economist published an article that discusses the decline in American marriages and the increase in non-married births. The article states that on average 51% of Americans are married. The article also states that in 2010, 40.8% of all births were to unmarried mothers. Not surprisingly, race and other economic factors can play a significant role in these statistics.
The reason behind the decrease in marriage and increase in cohabitation births is likely the result of a number of things. One of the most significant influences seems to be financial. Ms. Rinaldi stated that in her situation she and her partner do have plans to get married, but they want to save more money first. This idea of wanting to save money before being married makes sense, yet having a child before being married seems to be in conflict with that objective.
No doubt the cost of raising a child has increased drastically in recent years. It is estimated that the cost to raise a child from birth to age 17 costs on average around $235,000. It includes diapers, daycare, healthcare, and school expenses but does not include college or tuition. (Did you know that on average a child goes through about 2,700 diapers?)
When couples marry they have made a legal commitment to each other to stay together. The traditional view would be that in doing so they are desiring more stability as a couple. But that “marriage ceremony” may seem like an archaic concept and unimportant to many younger people today. In addition, the study from the Council on Contemporary Families mentioned above finds that there is actually very little correlation between divorce and living together before marriage. What the report found was: It turns out that cohabitation doesn’t cause divorce and probably never did. What leads to divorce is when people move in with someone – with or without a marriage license – before they have the maturity and experience to choose compatible partners and to conduct themselves in ways that can sustain a long-term relationship. It suggested that early entry into marriage or cohabitation, especially prior to age 23, is the critical risk factor for divorce.
Perhaps Ms. Rinaldi is correct – having a child while cohabitating may become the “new normal”. At least the statistics seem to support this new trend. Also, researchers seem to agree that it’s tough to predict what a family may look like 20 years from now, but it’s clear that cohabitation and non marriage births appear to be on the rise.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.