This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Links Between Cohabitation, Education, and Contraception

Cohabitation has become an increasingly popular precursor to marriage and refuge when a marriage ends, at least in the U.S. The rise in cohabitation happened earlier in Europe (where it was often an alternative to marriage) than in the U.S., but research shows that more than two-thirds of American women now cohabit at some point during their reproductive years. Two recent papers have summarized these trends--one by researchers at Bowling Green State University, and another just published in Demographic Research. The latter paper makes the point that data for the United States suggest that the availability of effective contraception has been associated with the rise in cohabitation, but this was less true in France, where cohabitation has been an acceptable alternative to marriage, But the Bowling Green research is particularly interesting because the results show clearly that the more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have ever cohabited (whether before or after a marriage). To be sure, a majority still do cohabit, but among those with less than a high school diploma, 76 percent have cohabited, compared to 58 percent with a college degree. I mention this largely in the context of what happens to kids. Cohabitation has replaced marriage for increasing portions of people's lives, and it is associated with the diversity in family structure that puts an increasing fraction of children at risk of growing up without both parents. As I noted recently, this is not good for the kids because, among other things, it increases their chances of growing up poor. And what isn't good for the kids, is unlikely to to be good for society's future. This does not mean that cohabitation is bad--it just gets back to the point that people need to use contraceptives until they are really ready to have kids. That seems so simple.

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