July 18, 2005
Fewer in U.S. marry as more live together – study
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Both the U.S. marriage and divorce
rates are dropping while the number of unwed couples living
together is rising, according to an annual study of marriage
released on Monday.
The numbers show a gradual trend in the United States
toward the lifestyles in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden,
where unmarried cohabitation with children is far more common,
said David Popenoe, co-author of "The State of Our Unions"
The number of unmarried couples living together in the
United States grew to more than 5 million last year, according
to the study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers, the
State University of New Jersey, in Piscataway.
More than half of all first U.S. marriages are preceded by
living together, it said. The study did not specify whether it
meant first marriage for both men and women.
Meanwhile, the U.S. marriage rate fell to 39.9 per 1,000
unmarried women in 2004 from 46.5 in 2000 and 76.5 in 1970, the
study said. The ratio of married U.S. adults has fallen to its
lowest since 1960, to about 55 percent from 69 percent, it
The divorce rate dropped to 17.7 per 1,000 married women in
2004 from 18.8 in 2000 and a high of 22.6 in 1980, the study
Eleven percent of adult U.S. women and 8 percent of adult
men are divorced, the study said. In 1960, fewer than 3 percent
of women and fewer than 2 percent of men were divorced, it
"Put all those together, and it means that those people who
marry might have a little stronger marriages than they once
did, but fewer people are marrying and more people are living
together outside of marriage," Popenoe said.
By comparison, the marriage rate in Sweden is one of the
lowest in the world, while the divorce rate is rising, he said.
"We're still a marrying nation, but we're, I would say,
gradually drifting in the European direction, if these trends
are going to prevail," Popenoe said.
The study showed the number of U.S. children born to unwed
mothers and the percentage of children living with a single
parent increased to record highs.
Almost 35 percent of last year's babies were born to
unmarried women. Of those, 40 percent were born to unmarried
couples living together, Popenoe said. Some 40 percent of such
couples have children, he noted.
Overall, the ratio of U.S. households with children has
been dropping since 1960, when it was almost half. The figure
dropped to about 33 percent in 2003 and is expected to fall to
28 percent in 2010, the study said.
The report, written by Popenoe, a social and behavioral
sciences professor, and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, an author of
books on marriage and family, is the seventh annual report by
the National Marriage Project.