A new study by the Census shows that a majority of households are not married, making married couples for the first time a minority. Says Sunday's New York Times:
The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.
The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.
“It just changes the social weight of marriage in the economy, in the work force, in sales of homes and rentals, and who manufacturers advertise to,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “It certainly challenges the way we set up our work policies.”
While the number of single young adults and elderly widows are both growing, Professor Coontz said, “we have an anachronistic view as to what extent you can use marriage to organize the distribution and redistribution of benefits.”
Couples decide to live together for many reasons, but real estate can be as compelling as romance.
“Owning three toothbrushes and finding that they are always at the wrong house when you are getting ready to go to bed wears on you,” said Amanda Hawn, a 28-year-old writer who set up housekeeping near San Francisco with her boyfriend, Nate Larsen, a real estate analyst, after shuttling between his apartment and one she shared with a friend. “Moving in together has simplified life,” Ms. Hawn said.
The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples. In all, nearly one in 10 couples were unmarried. (One in 20 households consisted of people living alone).
And the numbers of unmarried couples are growing. Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.
Fun fact: the highest number of same-sex female partners living in Hampshire County, MA, home of Northampton.
This is more than a statistic. This is my life. My partner and I lived together for 10 years before getting hitched. Many couples I know are in commited relationships, with houses and kids, who aren't married.
As adults, marriage isn't necessary to cement a relationship. It's a choice.