New research from the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics shows a change in the shape of American families. Births in what researchers call “cohabitating unions” jumped to 58 percent of all nonmarital births between 2006 and 2010, up from 41 percent of 2002 .
Sally Curtin, the lead researcher for the new study, says the data shows that the nature of nonmarital childbearing is changing. “What’s happened is the percent of non-marital births within cohabiting unions has been increasing, but now it’s increased to the point where the majority of non-marital births are to women that are cohabiting,” Curtin told NBC News.
For many modern couples, having a baby while cohabitating is the new normal. Jennifer Manlove, co-director for Reproductive Health and Family Health and Family Formation at the nonprofit group Child Trends, told NBC News that the days of the so-called “shotgun marriage” are over, replaced by “shotgun cohabitation.” If a woman gets pregnant, she believes that couples are then more likely to move in together, and says “when people think of nonmarital births, they think of single women. It’s actually more likely to be a two-parent cohabitating family.”
Marriage isn’t dead: It is often simply delayed. Many couples are now choosing to live together and start their families first, opting to formalize their unions with marriage at a later time when they are more financially secure.
The report also shows the birthrate for unmarried woman dropped 14 percent from its high in 2007 — reversing an upward trend that began in 2002.
Overall, there is less stigma and more social support for families today regardless of their structure. It’s difficult to predict what families will look like in another 20 years, but there is definitely a baby frenzy happening right now for unmarried couples who live together.