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Cohabitation in the United States

Cohabitation implies a couple sharing one household without being legally married. While this type of commitment was traditionally frowned upon within the majority of cultures, it has become more socially acceptable and widely spread in the modern world. As for the United States, the statistical data on unmarried couples living together shows similar patterns.

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There is enough evidence to suggest that cohabitation becomes considerably more pervasive in America. Research shows that the number of people who prefer cohabitation to legal marriage increased from 2.9 million in 1996 to 7.9 million in 2014 (National Vital Statistics Report, 2015, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 328). Rising trends can also be noted among unmarried couples who have children under 18. This figure has grown from about 1.2 million in the 1990s to approximately 3.3 million in 2014 (Child Trends Data Bank, 2015, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 328). Among US women aged from 15 to 44, about 23% of births occurred in cohabitation (Copen et al., 2013, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 328). These tendencies indicate increasing toleration of this type of commitment in the United States.

However, rising trends in cohabitation are not equally distributed among different social groups. They are suggested to be more prominent among people with lower levels of education and less stable sources of income. Younger individuals under the age of 45 tend to prefer cohabitation to legal marriage (Kendall, 2018, p. 328). It can be linked to the fact that this type of relationship may suit them better since their social position is not yet determined, and their employment status is less stable.

Younger people often are less willing to form firm commitments, and can approach the idea of cohabiting more open-mindedly. Other social groups that choose this type of arrangement include divorced individuals, and older people who do not want to get married because of retirement benefits they receive under the condition of remaining single (Kendall, 2018, p. 328). From 1987 to 2013 increasing trends were noted “among all women regardless of their race/ethnicity” (Hemez & Manning, 2017, p.3). Therefore, it can be concluded that cultural differences within different groups do not play crucial role in cohabitation patterns.

Although both life-long cohabitation and cohabitation resulting in separation are often observed, in many cases, couples eventually decide to legally get married. According to Copen et al., 40% of the first premarital cohabitation among women was followed by legal marriage within three years. This trend is more prominent among women with higher levels of education (Copen et al., 2013, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 329). However, in 33% of cases, cohabitation continued and 27% of couples decided to part (Copen et al., 2013, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 328). Hence, while cohabitation is often followed by legal marriage, it is not the most prevailing trend, which, in turn, reflects diversification of the acceptable types of relationship arrangements.

Before the legalization of same-sex marriages, LGBTQ people had to resort to cohabitation since no alternatives were provided. Struggling to receive at least some legal rights granted to married couples, they created domestic partnerships (Kendall, 2018, p. 329). This term refers to people who are not married, but live together in a stable, committed relationship sharing one household. This type of arrangement allowed same-sex couples to apply for visiting their partners in hospitals or obtaining child custody. More than 100, 000 LGBTQ couples married since the Supreme Court ruling (Lauter, 2015, as cited in Kendall, 2018, p. 329). This can be connected to their desire to receive all benefits legal marriage provides.

To conclude, it can be seen that recent economic and social changes contribute to increasing numbers of cohabitation, including households with children under the age of 18. Such trends are quite prominent in the United States, especially among younger people, due to the peculiarities of their social and economic situation. While, in many cases, cohabitation still results in marriage, there are also increasing trends in cohabitation as a life-long commitment.

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References

Hemez, P., & Manning, W. D. (2017). Over twenty-five years of change in cohabitation experience in the US, 1987-2013. Family Profiles.

Kendall, D. (2012). Sociology in our times. Cengage Learning.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 8). Cohabitation in the United States. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/cohabitation-in-the-united-states/

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StudyCorgi. "Cohabitation in the United States." January 8, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/cohabitation-in-the-united-states/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Cohabitation in the United States." January 8, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/cohabitation-in-the-united-states/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Cohabitation in the United States'. 8 January.

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