“Majority of Americans Now Believe in Cohabitation.” That’s the headline and conclusion from a national survey conducted by the Barna Group.

They surveyed 1,097 adults in April 2016, finding that 65 percent of Americans now approve of cohabiting prior to tying the knot, while 35 percent do not.

Given that nearly 70 percent of Americans marrying today will cohabit before getting married, these findings are not too surprising. The Barna Group also found that 84 percent of those who support premarital cohabitation do so because it provides a test of compatibility prior to marrying.

In Australia the figures are very similar or higher in the case of cohabitation before marriage. According to the latest census data – Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016, couples who lived together prior to marriage accounted for 80.8% of all marriages registered in 2016, an increase from the 76.1% recorded in 1996. In 1975, just 16% of married couples had lived together first, and by 1981 cohabitation had doubled with 31% of married couples recording their pre-marriage cohabitation.

In the US study, findings from the report include:

  • Millennials are more likely (72%) to endorse cohabitation prior to marriage than the older generation (36%).
  • Those identifying as liberal are more likely (86%) to endorse cohabitation prior to marriage than those identifying as conservative (37%).
  • Those identifying as more religious, particularly those who report being practicing Christians, are the least likely (41%) to endorse cohabiting before marriage while those reporting no faith at all are the most likely to embrace cohabitation (88%).


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics – Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016
  • Stanley, S,. and Rhoades, G., 2016: Testing a Relationship Is Probably the Worst Reason to Cohabit @DECIDEORSLIDE

Scott M. Stanley is a research professor at the University of Denver and fellow of the Institute for Family Studies (@DecideOrSlide). Galena K. Rhoades is a research associate professor at the University of Denver.

Tune in next week for more relationship ideas.

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