National Center for Family and Marriage Research Family Profiles

Document Type



Cohabitation prior to marriage has become a normative pathway to marriage in the U.S. The current profile examines shifts in the percentage of women who cohabited before marriage starting fifty years ago according to marriage cohorts. We report published results and use the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) to estimate the share of women who cohabited prior to marriage in each cohort. We also provide an up-to-date analysis comparing the experiences of two recent marriage cohorts (2005-2009 and 2015-2019). We present changes in premarital cohabitation according to educational attainment and present differentials in the age at marriage. Note that our analytical sample is not representative of the cohabitation experiences of all women in the U.S. because we only consider those who have ever married. This profile references different-gender couples due to data constraints in the NSFG. Check out the NCFMR profiles on cohabitation including FP-18-22, FP-19-02, & FP-20-12. For more information on the NSFG, see the 2017-2019 Cycle of National Survey of Family Growth and the NSFG web page (NCHS, 2020). All estimates are based on weighted analyses. The age restriction of 19 to 44-year-olds is imposed to allow comparisons across a long-time horizon.

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National Center for Family and Marriage Research