The number of Americans living with an unmarried partner has doubled since 1993, and though the numbers are still small, the increase is significant as it represents a major shift in living arrangements, experts say. Moreover, those unmarried couples are increasingly moving into homeownership.
Some 7% of Americans now live with an unmarried partner, up from just 3% in 1993, according to new data from Pew Research Center. The trend was highlighted by the National Association of Realtors in its 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, which notes that while most people who buy together still wait for marriage, unmarried buyers make up a growing share of the market, 9% compared to 8% a year ago. Married buyers made up 61% of the market. That’s down from 73% in 1981, the NAR survey shows.
Marriage rates have been steadily declining in the U.S. over the last few decades. In 2018, 53% of all U.S. adults aged 18 and above were married, down from 58% in 1995. Meanwhile, cohabitation rates have been climbing. Among those aged 18 to 44, a larger share have cohabited at some point than have been married (59% vs. 50%), according to the Pew study. A majority of cohabiters across demographic groups have only lived with one partner.
Pew Research Center said the number of unmarried couples who live together may be due in part to the Great Recession.
“We know from studies we have done and that others have done that many people are forgoing marriage for economic reasons, and we do see that here, with many cohabitants saying they are not far enough along in their career to get married yet,” Juliana Horowitz, co-author of the Pew Research Center Report, told The New York Times.
Surveys show that the majority of every age group now finds it acceptable to live with an unmarried partner, a notable shift in attitude from the past. Sixty-nine percent of Americans said it’s acceptable to live with a romantic partner even if you have no plans to get married, according to the survey of more than 9,800 Americans.