Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Marriages last longer than living together?"

...says the misleading headline on this story:

About 78 percent of marriages lasted five years or more, compared with less than 30 percent of what the CDC called cohabiting unions, or couples living together outside marriage.
Of course, a big part of that is that 'living together' means 'unmarried', so if you get married, your cohabitation ends.

One reason cohabitations were shorter-lived than marriages is that 51 percent of couples who lived together made the transition to marriage within three years, CDC said in a statement.

So, that leaves...just under 80% of cohabitations lasting at least three to five years. Not much of a story there after all - or, the story is that marriages aren't more successful than cohabitation. So I found the CDC report, and dug through the results a little. Some things I found interesting, primarily from Tables 16 and 17:

  • There's practically no correlation between cohabitation and probability of marriage survival (maybe for the majority - if we had to get used to each others' living habits, on top of the other stress related to getting married, I'm not sure that we'd last). [UPDATE: Apparently some of our readers have more current statistics usage than me, and are less tired while reading than I was while writing. There is in fact a correlation, but the difference is minimal - a couple of percent difference in the probability of marriage survival. Sorry for being careless with my language.]
  • That being said, couples who moved in together after getting engaged seem to have significantly higher likelihood of staying together long-term than those who move in before they get engaged. Whoops.
  • Couples who were pregnant before they got married, or without kids, were way less likely to stay together than couples with children born 8 or more months after the wedding.
What other interesting patterns do you see in the data?


  1. I'm one of those cohabitators you speak of, And now I'm planning a wedding. I guess I'm doomed;)

    I think the the statistics are correct, but they completely leave out socioeconomics!
    ----it used to be only the "irresponsible" people moved in before marriage. now it is everybody. For such a recent change- statistics aren't available......

  2. Hi! I am a recent follower!

    I didn't know that "couples who moved in together after getting engaged seem to have significantly higher likelihood of staying together long-term than those who move in before they get engaged" even though that is what we did. For me, I wanted to wait until we were ready to commit to being a family before we made the big step of moving in. But I wonder why that would make a difference in stats since either way the couples end up commited and married. Intersting post, thanks for sharing! :-)

  3. Man this post made my head hurt. We lived together before we were engaged. What if you move in together after you are married and you can't stand each others crazy habits? Wouldn't you rather know that up front?

  4. I'm a cohabitator and we're not engaged or planning to be any time soon. I get the whole honeymoon-making-a-home-together-is-fun-for-newlyweds, but then what do you do? You've got your whole lives left!! I definitely think it's good to know what you're getting into before you get into it.

    Also Stephanie is completely right... no one can afford to live alone anymore!!!

  5. This is a primer in how to lie with statistics. since the married and unmarried are not randomly assigned to those categories but are self selected the statistics mean nothing e.g.

    "Women with bachelor’s degrees or higher were more likely to be currently married (63%) than those who did not have a high school diploma or GED (49%). Comparable percentages for men were 62% and 53%, respectively"

    Ok what does this mean? possibly those whoa are smarter, come from better socioeconomic backgrounds, or prefer intellectual effort are more likely to choose marriage. Who Knows?