The good news is that the US behind the curve on cohabitation. Whether or not cohabitation is actually seen as an alternative to marriage is disputable.
The National Marriage Project study of a sampling of Western European and Scandinavian nations, Australia, Canada and New Zealand found that cohabitation elsewhere is far more common and indeed viewed as an option to matrimony. The study found that anywhere from 15% to 30% of all couples identified themselves as living together, compared with about 10% right now in the USA.
The new report cites Census data showing that about 40% of all opposite-sex, unmarried couples live with their own child under 18.
“We often think of cohabitation as a phenomenon of young adulthood before people start having kids, but … as marriage is being delayed to later and later ages, more children are born before marriage, and many of the couples are cohabiting before the birth,” says R. Kelly Raley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas-Austin, who did not participate in the study.
Raley isn’t convinced that cohabitation is being viewed as a marriage alternative, citing a 2001 study of her own. The evidence, she found, didn’t suggest people cohabit to start a family, which she says is what would be expected if cohabitation were considered a marriage alternative.