Shacking Up – The Failed Alternative to Wedlock

Back in the sixties and seventies, enlightened social commentators dismissed as Chicken-Little fear-mongers those who expressed concerns about the growing number of couples living in cohabiting unions outside of wedlock. Cohabitation, they assured the nation, would actually serve a beneficial social function as a kind of “trial marriage,” ensuring that those who went on to take vows actually were suited for each other. And even if these cohabiting couples never got around to taking vows, these progressive luminaries averred, their cohabiting unions would be functionally equivalent to marriages. So, no, they assured one and all, the multiplication of cohabiting couples did not mean that the sky was falling. But in a new study of cohabitation recently completed at Bowling Green State University, sociologist Karen Benjamin Guzzo adduces evidence that can only intensify concerns about cohabitation. In recent decades, not only have fewer and fewer cohabiting couples gone on to marriage, but fewer and fewer have even stayed together. In terms of cohesion and conjugal solidarity, it appears that, yes, the social sky is falling. Aware that “cohabitation has become quite common in the United States in recent decades,” Guzzo looks for evidence as to whether the practice of cohabiting has changed. She seeks such evidence in data collected between 2002 and 2010 for a nationally representative sample of 20,687 cohabiting unions. Guzzo’s analysis of these data establishes that “cohabitation is indeed changing over time”—and is changing in disturbing ways.   While the data indicate that “the majority of today’s marriages are preceded by cohabitation,” they also reveal that “fewer cohabitations are transitioning to marriage” than in past decades. Consequently, “marriage rates are at an all-time low,” and—in our cohabitation-prone culture—“marriage rates are [still] declining.” The progressive theory of cohabitation as a benefic
Please subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.