Survey says: Most Catholics in US reject Church teaching on cohabitation

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- Nearly three quarters of Catholics in the United States are not opposed to couples cohabiting before marriage, despite the Church’s moral teaching.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center, released Nov. 6, reports that Americans as a whole are very accepting of unmarried couples living together, even if they have no plans to marry. Additionally, Pew found that a shrinking percentage of adults are getting married, and an increasing number of adults have decided to cohabit.

Only 14% of adults surveyed said they did not believe that it was ever acceptable for two unmarried adults in a romantic relationship to live together. An additional 16% said that they agreed with cohabitation only if there were plans for the couple to one day get married.

Of the people surveyed, 69% said they believed it was acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, without any plans to eventually wed.

In 2002, the National Survey of Family Growth found that while 54% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 had ever cohabited with a romantic partner, 60% had ever been married. By 2017, the number of adults who had ever been married dropped to 50%, while the number of adults who had cohabitated rose to 54%.

Pew found that race and religion played a role in whether or not a person was approving of the ideal of cohabitation. A total of 72% of white respondents said that cohabitation without a plan to get married was acceptable, with an additional 13% saying they approved of cohabitation without a plan to get married. Of black survey respondents, 23%, the largest of any ethnic group, said that they did not thing cohabitation was ever acceptable. Only 55% of black respondents said they approved of cohabitation without planning on getting married.

For Hispanics, only 10% of respondents said it was never acceptable to cohabitate. Slightly over one-fifth of Hispanic respondents – 21% – said they found cohabitation acceptable as long as there were wedding bells in the future.

Religion was a factor as well. Catholics and white mainline Protestants had nearly identical rates of approval of cohabitation–the survey found that 74% of Catholics and 76% of white Protestants who do not claim to be born-again or evangelical were okay with an unmarried couple cohabitating. Conversely, this figure dropped to 47% for blacked Protestants and 35% for white evangelical Protestants.

A full 90% of religiously unaffiliated people approved of cohabitation, and fewer than a third of this group said they believed society would be better off if more couples who cohabited got married.

White evangelical Christians were more likely than any other group to say that they believed increased marriage rates were better for society.

The survey also showed that married adults are more satisfied with their relationship than are those who cohabit, and they are more trustful of their partners.

The data for this survey came from the American Trends Panel, which was taken June 25- July 8. A total of 9,834 people were surveyed. Pew said the margin of error was about 1.5 points.

During the Fall 2013 USCCB General Assembly, Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke to CNA about the reasons why couples are increasingly turning to cohabit. O’Malley cited financial instability–particularly student loans–as well as cultural norms as for why this was the case.

“Concerns about marriage – people not getting married, falloff in Mass attendance, (and the) challenge of catechizing the young Catholics” are some of the more troubling trends facing Catholicism in the U.S., the Archbishop of Boston said to CNA Nov. 11, during the general assembly of the national bishops’ conference in Baltimore.

The cardinal noted that “the whole notion of family is so undercut by the cohabitation mentality,” and that these social trends are having a tremendous impact on the working-class communities “who were once the backbone of the Church.”

“Half of the children born to that demographic are born out of wedlock,” a statistic that Cardinal O’Malley said would have been “inconceivable” a few decades ago.

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  1. They need to update things… Only God is the same yesterday, today & tomorrow. Not the Church.
    It needs to understand that it isn’t God & it has to be different yesterday, today, & tomorrow.

  2. Great double-entendre—-that so many now are conceived out of wedlock is a SITUATION “inconceivable” fifty years ago!

    Part of the HALF-CENTURY brainwashing/victimization goes back to the two influential Kinsey Reports of the mid-20th century (1948, 1953). Here’s a summary of some finding about the Kinsey “social science” (based on Judith Reisman and Edward Eichel, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: the Indoctrination of People, Huntington House Publishers, 1990):

    The Kinsey “findings” were based on 18,000 “sex histories,” ALL of whom were self-selected volunteers and a quarter to half of whom were PRISON INMATES, and 1,400 of whom were SEX OFFENDERS, apparently even INCLUDING nine sex offenders who engaged in direct experimentation on children aged two months to fifteen years.

    Prostitutes and cohabiting females were CLASSIFIED as married, leading to the claim that a quarter of married women committed adultery. Writer Janice Shaw Crouse adds further that Kinsey “was promiscuously bisexual, sado-masochistic, and a decadent voyeur who enjoyed filming his wife having sex with his staff” (see Janice Shaw Crouse, “Kinsey’s Kids,” at

    So fortunate for us that ongoing “anthropological cultural change” plus freelance synodality are the new magisterium for the Graffiti/New Church. Can we now look forward/backward to MIDDLE-GROUND ORACLES of the Hole-ly Spirit—bracketed by post-modern social science and pre-modern Pachamama primitivism?

  3. The danger of these relationships is that they ultimately promote instability – I know enough people who have children first and then split up later, causing a lot of heartache in the process.

    Interestingly, if you permit an anecdote, I have heard more than once that insurance/taxes were one factor in not tying the knot – the loss of prior benefits or newly-taxable combined incomes CAN act as one -but not the primary- factor in scaring off couples. How widespread this feeling is I can’t say, especially when factored in with lack of or background in faith, etc. However, I also think that in general, government and society are structured in such a way as to dissuade marriage – whether it’s jobs whittling away peoples’ free time and off days through less money earned, or absurd taxes on lower-income brackets to make it harder to get by.

    I venture a guess: if you make it easier for people to get married, more people will get married (since they clearly want to live with one another). If not, you get this undesirable halfway state of affairs which gives people an ‘easy out’ when the pressures around their life/job/etc. seep into their relationship.

    • Although I am fairly confident that my husband will not die before I do (he is several years older, but his side of the family has longevity genes and my side does not), should something unfortunate happen, I will not marry again, precisely because I fear economic losses. Indeed, I know a lot of older people (65 years plus) who are divorced or widowed (widower-ed?) with significant others. Sometimes they live together; sometimes they maintain their own house.
      I must confess I am not excited about my children getting married. The “divorce/child custody fight culture” is huge, and I fear them (all sons) loosing all they are working so hard to obtain. Most divorces of which I am aware are because the wife kicked out the husband. I heard recently the failure of marriage or relationship estrangement is one of the leading causes of male suicide.

  4. Living together is a lie. The secular claim is made that it is a good way to see how the parties would be in marriage.


    And shame to those pathetic ‘Catholics’ who remake the Faith in their own image – via cherrypicked Catholicism – to suit their desires over truth.

    People don’t act the same cohabiting as they do married. One always has one foot out the door and can leave in a couple of hours in light of any disagreement or greener pastures due to a boredom that always comes in non-commitment.

    The idea of true sacrifice and remaining steadfast in an actual sacramental and unitive bond does not exist in a cohabitation that exists mainly for the easy physical access to another person.

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