Cohabitation Levels Rising, Study Finds; 1 in 4 Such Women Plan to Stay unwed.(NATION)
Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
One out of four women who live with their boyfriends say they don't expect to marry him, which may mean cohabitation is gaining ground as a lifestyle unto itself, a new study says.
"For so long, we've been looking at cohabitation as potentially leading to marriage or even a step in the marriage process - like an engagement," said University of Michigan sociologist Pamela J. Smock, who co-authored a paper on cohabiting in this month's Journal of Family Issues.
Now there's a solid minority of cohabiting couples who "explicitly say they do not plan to marry," she said. A survey of 715 cohabiting women in 1995 found 26 percent said they did not plan to marry their lover.
If a woman says she doesn't intend to marry the man she's living with, it's almost certain she won't, Ms. Smock and co-author Wendy D. Manning of Bowling Green State University in Ohio said in their article, "First Comes Cohabitation and Then Comes Marriage?"
There may even be a message here for the Bush administration, Ms. Smock said, since the government is pushing for more marriage among low-income and welfare families.
Among cohabiting women, the ones with low education levels, low incomes and boyfriends with the same characteristics were the most likely to say they weren't going to marry, she said.
"Putting two and two together, in terms of Bush's marriage initiative, if we're serious about promoting marriage, we have to take care of the educational and economic profiles of young people - especially young men," she said.
Cohabitation has captured the interest of U.S. family-policy experts because it is a steadily growing phenomenon: In 1960, the Census Bureau counted fewer than 500,000 unmarried couples living together. In 2000, it reported 4.7 million cohabiting households. …