Members of Generation X, especially those without college degrees, are increasingly spurning marriage in favor of cohabitation, according to a report published Monday.
Marriage is still far more common, with 58 percent of adults aged 30-44 married as of 2009, compared with 7 percent living with an opposite-sex partner, according to the study from the Pew Research Center.
But cohabitation rates have doubled over the past 15 years, and the marriage rate has plummeted among those without college degrees, according to the study. In 1995, 63 percent of adults in the 30-44 age bracket without degrees were married, but by last year that had fallen to 56 percent. Meanwhile the cohabitation rate doubled from 4 to 8 percent.
The cohabitation rate also doubled among those with college degrees, from 2 to 5 percent, but the marriage rate remained almost unchanged at 71 percent.
The report underscores the apparent economic advantages of marriage, especially for those with less formal education. Individuals who lacked a college degree but had a spouse had median household income of $65,800 in 2009, compared with less than $50,000 for those who were cohabiting or listed as living with “no partner.” The advantage held even when adjusted for household size. (The Pew report was based on Census data, which did not account for same-sex couples.)
College graduates, of course, had far higher median household incomes — $110,000 for those who were married and $95,400 for those cohabiting. But when adjusted for a typical three-person household, the Pew Center figured that cohabiters actually had a higher median income than married couples.
Marriage still seems to confer some economic advantages on the college-educated, however. Only 2 percent of college-educated married adults aged 30-44 lived in poverty as of 2009, compared with 9 percent of those cohabiting and 7 percent of those living without partners.
Poverty rates were far higher for those without college degrees, but married couples enjoyed a significant advantage there, too.