Deanna Medina and Ever Gutierrez of Los Angeles have been engaged for three years and have lived together for 12.
They also have three kids together, ages 17 months to 11 years.
While more of the USA’s cohabiters are childless (59% — almost 9 million — as of March, when Census counted current cohabiters), they’re not the only ones driving the rise in cohabitation. There are also 6.3 million who, like Medina and Gutierrez, have kids and make up the other 41%. About half of those have kids from a partner’s previous relationship, and half are children from the cohabiting relationship, researchers say.
“One kind of cohabitation that people have overlooked is the growing number of cohabiting young adults with children,” says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “Demographers think almost all the increase in non-marital childbearing has been to cohabiting couples.”
About 63% of cohabiters have never been married, but 29% are divorced and 5% separated, according to an exclusive analysis of new Census data for USA TODAY. It also found that education is a factor.
“We’ve seen this sharp increase in cohabitation in recent years, but it’s really been those with less education that have been driving that trend,” says demographer Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, which did the analysis.
“Almost half of these cohabiters have a high school degree or less,” he says.
Research presented this week at a meeting at the National Center for Health Statistics shows similar findings. Among 5,180 women ages 18-36, most had cohabited, finds one study. But those with a college degree were “less likely to cohabit overall and more likely to get married if they do cohabit,” says lead author Sharon Sassler, a social demographer at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Of those who cohabit, more than half are in the first six months of the start of the sexual relationship, the study found. But for college-educated women, about 30% take two or more years to move in with a partner.