In some parts of the world, such as Latin America, cohabitation is a widespread and ancient tradition, but in the U.S. and other Western countries, it barely existed three decades ago. In America today, for every 100 married couples, there are 10 unmarried couples living together. But this statistic understates the prevalence of the practice, as a third of all married women younger than 45 have cohabited at some point in their lives.
Although an increasing number of older Americans do so, cohabitation takes place mostly among those 40 or younger and is generally short-lived, with two thirds of unions lasting two years or less. Those who cohabit tend to have less income and education, are less religious, and are more likely than noncohabitants to come from broken homes. Living together, more so for whites than blacks, is usually a prelude to marriage, although about one out of four cohabiting women do not see their unions as a first step to marriage but simply as an alternative to being single or dating. Some cohabitants live with parents, relatives or housemates. Cohabitation tends to be most prevalent in New England, Florida and the West and least prevalent in the South, the most conservatively religious region in the U.S.
This article was originally published with the title Living Together.