The Rand Corporation’s New and Misleading Study

In June 2013, the Rand Corporation released a study called, “Cohabitation and Marriage Intensity: Consolidation, Intimacy, and Commitment” based on 2010 Census data. The study addresses general societal anxiety over rising divorced rates by looking at the effect of cohabitation before marriage. In other words, the authors of this study ask: do divorce rates rise in those couples who move in before getting married?

The answer is an unequivocal, and uncontestable, yes.

However, there are several holes in the study that should drastically limit the way you use their conclusions to view American partnership and romance.

First, the study only examined couples between the ages of 18-26. This means that Michael S. Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris bought into the stereotype that that age is the norm for marrying couples. According to the 2010 Census, the median age for a man to get married is 28.9, and 26.9 for a woman. According to a 2006-2010 poll conducted by Gallup, by the age of 24 most more couples are married than cohabitating.

Thus, we can conclude that within this age group, cohabitation correlates with relative youth and immaturity. It is unfair for Pollard and Harris to compare cohabitation to marriage for young adults, as the difference in age of just a few years marks an enormous difference in a person’s development.

Unmarried Equality does not contest that cohabitative relationships tend to end earlier than marriages to. However, in a country where marriage is not the permanent refuge that it is put up to be, we should stop analyzing cohabitation against the fictionally high expectations of marriage.



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