The Cohabitation Revolution

by Reihan Salam

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times, who covers what we might call the demographic beat, has an article on a new report from the National Marriage Project:


The report cites data from the Census Bureau as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and includes work from 18 researchers who study family issues.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age 12, far more than the 24 percent whose parents have divorced.

The numbers also suggest a correlation with class. Americans with only a high school diploma are far more likely to cohabit than are college graduates, according to the report.

“There’s a two-family model emerging in American life,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “The educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families. Everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones.”

Cohabiting parents, Mr. Wilcox said, are more than twice as likely to break up as parents who are married.

The report itself is fascinating. Briefly, I’ll observe that the American model of cohabitation seems strikingly different from the model of cohabitation that prevails in northern Europe, and paradigmatically in Sweden, where cohabiting parents have relationships as durable, if not more so, than married American couples, a subject sociologist Andrew Cherlin addressed in The Marriage-Go-Round

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.