Cohabitation Breakups Rise

Article excerpt

Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, a statistic that has remained constant for the last two decades. A modest increase, however, is occurring in the instability of first unions, which includes cohabiting as well as married couples.

About one-third of women under 30 in their first union between 1987 and 1994 broke off their relationships, according to research published by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. That percentage is up from 31% for women in their first union between 1980 and 1986.

For women under 30, the percentage who have ended a. first marriage has remained at 22%.

Disparities occur in marriage and cohabitation statistics when race, age, and education are taken into account. Results are based on estimates from the June 1990 Current Population Survey (CPC) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

* For black women, 70% of their first marriages will end in divorce after at least 30 years, while 47% of first marriages for white women will end in divorce.

* Black women are also more likely to see their first unions dissolve within five years. Fifty-five percent of black women in a first union separate after cohabitation or marriage, compared with 33% of white women in a first union. These numbers are up for both groups, from 40% and 31% respectively.

* About 60% of marriages for high-school dropouts end in divorce, compared to 36% among college graduates.

* Women who did not graduate from high school are also more likely to break up a first union: 42% of non-high-school graduates in a first union separate, compared to 26% for women who graduate from college. …