NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 1, 2006

Cohabiting parents typically part with so much of their money at tobacco and liquor stores that they have little left to spend on their children, say researchers at the University of Chicago.

Indeed, non-marital cohabitation is less beneficial for children when compared with traditional marriages, say the researchers.

  • Alcohol expenditures average $124.78 for the cohabiting parents versus $80.06 for the married couple.
  • Tobacco expenditures average $170.18 for the cohabiters versus $107.53 for the married couple.
  • Children's education expenditures average $204.90 for cohabiters compared with $283.32 for the traditional family.
  • Health care spending for children averages $381.30 for cohabiters compared with $440.42 for the traditional family. However, this difference is likely due to a difference in Medicaid coverage between cohabiters and married-parent families (36 vs. 15 percent).

The researchers speculate the reason that many male cohabiters invest less in their children's well-being is because the children are not biologically theirs. However, they emphasize even biological cohabitates may have a different set of values and lifestyle preferences than do biological fathers in married households.

Progressive commentators believe non-marital cohabitation is the functional equivalent of marriage. This study challenges their theory by providing strong evidence showing cohabitation as a distinct family type from traditional marriage, says the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Source: Thomas DeLeire and Ariel Kalil, "How Do Cohabitating Couples With Children Spend Their Money?" Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 67, no. 2, May 2005.

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