Cohabitation: A Precursor to Marriage or an Alternative to Being Single?
In contrast to the emphasis in existing literature on the comparison between cohabitation and marriage, this article argues that cohabitation ought also to be compared with being single. This latter comparison can aid in our understanding of cohabitation and help explain such patterns as the short-term nature of cohabiting relationships and the relatively higher divorce rates among those who cohabited prior to marriage. Using data from the US National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, the article compares noncohabiting singles, cohabitors, and married individuals in terms of such characteristics as marriage and childbearing plans, participation in the labor force, home ownership, and financial independence from parents. In almost all comparisons, the cohabitors are substantially more similar to the singles than to the married. The increased popularity of cohabitation can be viewed as another indicator of the long-term rise of individualism in modern society