NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 21, 2005

Although the cohabitation rate for American couples is on the rise -- about 8 percent of American couples live together without marriage -- it falls drastically short of Sweden's cohabitation rate of 28 percent, says USA Today.

Sweden's divorce rate is lower than the United States', but due likely to the fact that fewer couples in Sweden get married. The U.S. divorce rate is much higher, but both the marriage and the divorce rates are dropping in the United States.

According to the report, "The State of Our Unions 2005," by the National Marriage Project (NMP):

  • The U.S. divorce rate is 17.7 per 1,000 married women, a significant drop from 1980, when it was 22.6 per 1,000 married women.
  • The marriage rate has dropped 50 percent since 1970, to about 39.9 per 1,000 unmarried women.
  • Still, almost half of couples marrying today face the prospect of divorce.

Sociologist David Popenoe of the NMP notes that individuals whose parents divorced during their childhood often choose the lower-commitment arrangement of living together.

Furthermore, the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey indicates that about 40 percent of couples that live together have children under the age of 18 living in the household. Popenoe worries that since cohabitating couples have higher break-up rates than married couples, an increasing number of children are being raised in shaky and unstable family situations.

Source: "Sweden's Marriage Lite Gets Closer Examination." USA Today, July 18, 2005; "Current Population Suvey," U.S. Census Bureau; and "The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America 2004," National Marriage Project, Rutgers University, July 2005.

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