Cohabitation Over the Last 20 Years: Measuring and Understanding the Changing Demographics of Unmarried Partners, 1996–2017

Benjamin Gurrentz , U.S. Census Bureau

Cohabitation has more than doubled in the last 20 years, reflecting either increasing normalization or perhaps increasing social disadvantage. Over this same period, the Current Population Survey has significantly improved the measurement of cohabiting partners, including adding a direct cohabitation question in 2007, which revealed “hidden” cohabiting households and cohabiting subfamilies. This study seeks to better understand the changing demographics of cohabiters from 1996 to 2017 in light of improved measurement using two strategies. The first strategy is to compare only the social characteristics of cohabiters between years where measurement was stable. I will compare 1996 to 2006 and 2007 to 2017, but not 1996 to 2017. The second strategy is to make long-term historical comparisons (1996-2017) under the condition that the newly discovered cohabiting groups in 2007-2017 do not significantly bias the social characteristics of the total cohabiting population, which will be tested extensively in this paper.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 9. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity