- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

The number of unmarried couples living together grew 72 percent between 1990 and 2000, reflecting a significant change in lifestyle, the Census Bureau says in a report today that uses data from the last census.
Married couples remain the majority of American households, accounting for 90 percent of the almost 60 million "coupled households" in 2000.
The rise in unmarried partners troubles Bridget Maher, who tracks family trends at the Family Research Council. There's a misconception that living together before marriage means that the marriage won't break up, she said, but research indicates that the opposite is true.
"So if we have more cohabiting [before marriage], it is likely to lead to more divorce," she said.
The more than 5 million unmarried couples counted in 2000 included 4.8 million couples of the opposite sex and nearly 600,000 couples of the same sex.
The same-sex couple data is the best baseline data the census has produced, said Census Bureau analyst Martin O'Connell.
Previous censuses didn't ask detailed enough questions about relationships, he said.
The recent census "took care of that," Mr. O'Connell said, by asking an unrelated adult who lived in the house if he or she were a "roomer, boarder," "housemate, roommate," "unmarried partner," or other nonrelative. Persons of the same sex who identified themselves as "unmarried partners" were counted as "couples."
The new data shows an overall increase in "coupled households," which is a new term for the bureau, said Mr. O'Connell.
In 1990, he said, there were 51.5 million married couples and 3.2 million unmarried couples, for a total of 54.7 million coupled households.
In 2000, the number of these households rose about 10 percent, to 59.9 million, and the number of married couples also grew, to 54.4 million. But the number of unmarried couples had greater proportional growth, to 5.5 million, he said.
The new data "ties in with everything we know about what's happening all around the world that more and more, couples are cohabiting," said Stephanie Coontz, a leader of the Council on Contemporary Families, a group of researchers and clinicians studying family trends.
Sometimes cohabiting is an alternative to marriage, but what's new, she said, "is that the majority of marriages now begin as cohabiting relationships … Cohabiting has become a normal part of the courtship process."
The new report, "Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000," offers details on the geographic location, age and race of the partners, plus whether they have children in the home.
The bureau found that:
Children were in the homes of 46 percent of married couples, 43 percent of unmarried opposite-sex couples, 34 percent of lesbian couples and 22 percent of male homosexual couples.
Washington, D.C. was one of the 10 cities with the highest number of same-sex couples; its 3,678 same-sex couples constituted 1.5 percent of the population. Of these couples, 2,693 were male and 985 female.
Utah had the highest percent of coupled households (67 percent of population), while Idaho, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Vermont, Iowa, Alaska and Maine all had at least 60 percent of their populations in coupled households.

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