Volume 19 - Article 47 | Pages 1663–1692

Cohabitation and children's living arrangements: New estimates from the United States

By Sheela Kennedy, Larry L. Bumpass

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Date received:19 Dec 2007
Date published:19 Sep 2008
Word count:9696
Keywords:children, cohabitation, family dynamics, family structure


This paper uses the 1995 and 2002 waves of the National Survey of Family Growth to examine recent trends in cohabitation in the United States. We find increases in both the prevalence and duration of unmarried cohabitation. Cohabitation continues to transform children’s family lives, as children are increasingly likely to be born to a cohabiting mother (18% during 1997-2001) or to experience their mother’s entry into a cohabiting union. Consequently, we estimate that two-fifths of all children spend some time in a cohabiting family by age 12. Because of substantial missing data in the 2002 NSFG, we are unable to produce new estimates of divorce and children’s time in single-parent families. Nonetheless, our results point to the steady growth of cohabitation and to the evolving role of cohabitation in U.S. family life.

Author's Affiliation

Sheela Kennedy - University of Michigan, United States of America [Email]
Larry L. Bumpass - University of Wisconsin–Madison, United States of America [Email]

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