Is cohabitation a good idea for couples considering marriage?

In step with a stumbling marriage rate, the share of Americans who are cohabiting is rising, leading some to speculate that cohabitation is both normal—which it is, statistically—and largely poised to replace marriage (which it’s unlikely to do). What exactly do Americans think about living together?

Figure 21.1Cohabitation is a good idea for couples considering marriage
FORTY-FOUR PERCENT OF AMERICANS AGREE (OR STRONGLY AGREE) THAT “IT IS A GOOD IDEA FOR COUPLES CONSIDERING MARRIAGE TO LIVE TOGETHER IN ORDER TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THEY GET ALONG WELL ENOUGH TO BE MARRIED.”

Most either approve or remain neutral on the wisdom of cohabiting before marriage. Forty-four percent of Americans agree (or strongly agree) that “it is a good idea for couples considering marriage to live together in order to decide whether or not they get along well enough to be married.” A little over half as many (25 percent) disagree. Older Americans are predictably less likely to approve, but the generational gap in support is smaller than most might expect.

Religious affiliation plays a significant role in how cohabitation is perceived. Both Mormons (76 percent) and Muslims (56 percent) are far more likely to disagree than agree. Protestants are split nearly down the middle, with slightly more disapproving, although more conservative Protestant groups such as Evangelicals and Pentecostals are decidedly opposed to cohabitation. Catholics are on the opposite end with twice as many who think cohabitation is a good idea as those who do not. Even “traditional” Catholics are split on the subject. Meanwhile, Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated are least likely to express opposition to cohabitation and report high levels of support. So while marriage is not outdated, older ways of arriving there sure seem to be.


Next: Should couples stay together for the sake of the kids?
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