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Cohabitation in Middle and Later Life
Paul Hemez & Susan L. Brown
Cohabitation is gaining popularity across the life course. In 2000, the number of older men and women (defined as those aged 50 and older) in a cohabiting relationship was about 1.2 million (or 1.6% of older adults) (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2005). Since then, the number of cohabiting older adults has nearly tripled to 3.2 million in 2014. Such growth suggests that cohabitation is becoming an increasingly common experience among today’s older Americans. Using data from the 2014 American Community Survey, this Family Profile examines America’s population of cohabitors aged 50 or older. Specifically, we explore cohabitation rates across states and compare the characteristics of older cohabitors to those who report being married or single. We find that 77% of older cohabitors were White in 2014, whereas 12% were Black, and 11% were Hispanic (not shown). Furthermore, cohabitors were younger, on average, than their married and single counterparts; the average age of cohabitors was 60 compared to 67 and 63 for single and married individuals, respectively (not shown).
Alaska reported the highest cohabitation rate of older Americans in 2014, with 128 older cohabitors per 1,000 unmarried adults aged 50 and older.
Figure 1. Cohabitation Rates of Individuals Aged 50 or Older, by State, 2014
Source: American Community Survey, 1-yr estimates, 2014
Older Cohabitation Rates by State
In 2014, the cohabitation rate in the United States for those aged 50 or older was 75 cohabitors per 1,000 unmarried individuals, although this varied across states.
..the cohabitation rate in the United States for those aged 50 or older was 75 cohabitors per 1,000 unmarried individuals...
Alabama had the lowest rate of older cohabitors in the United States, with less than 45 cohabiting individuals for every 1,000 unmarried adults.
Note: Rates are represented as the number of cohabitors aged 50 or older per 1,000 unmarried individuals aged 50 or older
1st Quartile: 44.3 - 66.9
2nd Quartile: 67.0 - 77.3
3rd Quartile: 77.4 - 85.3
4th Quartile: 85.4 - 127.7
Suggested Citation:
Older cohabitors were more often poor than either married or single individuals. Nearly one in four (24%) cohabiting adults aged 50 or older was living in a household at or below the poverty line in 2014.
The share of older cohabitors living in a household in poverty was almost five times larger than the share of married adults living in such a household (5%).
Single adults aged 50 or older had the largest share (78%) of men and women who had at least one prior marriage.
Poverty Status and Marital History of Persons Aged 50 and Older
Eighteen percent of single adults aged 50 or older were living in a household at or below the poverty line.
Among those aged 50 and older in 2014, the majority of single and cohabiting adults had been married at least once.
Figure 2. Percentage of Older Americans Living in a Household at or Below the Poverty Line, by Union Status, 2014
Marital History
Figure 3. Percentage of Older Americans Previously Married, by Union Status, 2014
Source: American Community Survey, 1-yr estimates, 2014
Older cohabitors had a slightly smaller share of persons who had been married in the past, at 75%.
Thirty percent of currently married men and women aged 50 were remarried.
Poverty Status
005 Williams Hall Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH 43403
This project is supported with assistance from Bowling Green State University. From 2007 to 2013, support was also provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the state or federal government.
National Center for Family & Marriage Research
Family Profiles: Original reports summarizing and analyzing nationally representative data with the goal to provide the latest analysis of U.S. families. These profiles examine topics related to the NCFMR's core research themes.