Study: Divorce rate falls as cohabitation climbs

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- The divorce rate in the United States is falling, and a new study offers an explanation: More people are shacking up instead of getting married.

In a report released today, the co-directors of the National Marriage Project, a nonpartisan institute at Rutgers University that promotes marriage, said couples who get married are more committed to each other than those who are just live together.

The study analyzed data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and other researchers.

Nine of every 1,000 married women in the United States divorced in 1960, according to the study. The rate increased to more than 22 per 1,000 by 1980 and has steadily declined since, to a little under 18 per 1,000 in 2004.

Meanwhile, the number of unmarried, opposite-sex couples living together has climbed from 439,000 in 1960 to more than 5 million now.

And the marriage rate has fallen over the past three decades: Seventy-seven out of every 1,000 single women got married in 1976; last year, the number was fewer than 40 per 1,000, the study found.

Report authors David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead said they are glad the divorce rate is on the decline, but they are worry about the children of couples who are living together without marrying.

"The breakup rate of cohabiting couples is considerably higher" than that of married couples, Popenoe said. "As more and more cohabiting couples have children, that becomes more of a problem."

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