The primary finding in this report focuses on the timing of cohabitation (comparing three groups, before or after engagement, or at marriage), but there is also a strong history of research on marital instability based on the simpler, binary comparison of whether or not a couple lived together before marriage. For decades, research on marriages in the U.S. has shown that those who live with their spouse before marrying are at greater risk for seeing their marriages end.
Although the binary comparison of living together or not before marriage is not the focus of this report, readers may want to know what this basic difference looks like in this new sample.
In the prior literature, some studies analyzed the outcome of divorce. The figure to the left shows the percentage of marriages ending in divorce in this new sample by whether or not respondents reported living with their spouse prior to marriage. Other studies have analyzed the outcome of dissolution, combining divorce and separation (as we do in the main report). The figure to the right shows the percentage of marriages ending in divorce or separation by whether or not respondents reported cohabiting with their spouse prior to marriage.
In statistical tests using this new sample, the comparisons shown above yield estimates consistent with large sample, U.S. studies that find that living together before marriage is associated with higher levels of marital instability.