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Journal Article

The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage

Larry L. Bumpass, James A. Sweet and Andrew Cherlin
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Nov., 1991), pp. 913-927
DOI: 10.2307/352997
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/352997
Page Count: 15
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The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage
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Abstract

Sharp declines in both first marriage rates and rates of remarriage have been largely offset by increasing cohabitation. The increase in the proportion of unmarried young people should not be interpreted as an increase in "singlehood" as traditionally regarded: young people are setting up housekeeping with partners of the opposite sex at almost as early an age as they did before marriage rates declined. The characteristics of cohabiting couples are documented here, including the role of the least educated in leading this trend, and the presence of children with 40% of the couples. While most cohabitors expect to marry their partner, there is a substantial proportion who disagree about marriage, and a high proportion are concerned about the stability of their relationship. Thus the picture that is emerging is that cohabitation is very much a family status, but one in which levels of certainty about the relationship are lower than in marriage.

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