The Rise of Cohabitation

In the year 2000, scholars Suzanne M. Bianchi and Lynne M. Casper argued that by some measures, the late twentieth-century revolutions in the American family had slowed. There has been a recent “quieting of changes in the family, or at least of the pace of change,” they wrote:

There was little change in the proportion of two-parent or single-mother families during the 1990s. The living arrangements of children stabilized, as did the living arrangements of young adults and the elderly. The divorce rate had been in decline for more than two decades. The rapid growth in cohabitation among unmarried adults has also slowed.

However, they continued, “Whether the [1990s] slowing, and in some cases cessation, of change in family living arrangements is a temporary lull or part of a new, more sustained equilibrium will only be revealed in the first decades of the 21st century.”

Fourteen years after they wrote those words, it seems fair to say that the 1990s slowing of family change was just a temporary lull. The percent of births to unmarried women resumed its multi-decade increase in the 2000s, and the percent of adults that are married resumed its multi-decade fall. Family life has also continued to change on another less widely cited measure: cohabitation.