NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some 4.2 million Americans between the ages of 30 to 44 (or about 7% of this age group) lived with an unmarried partner in 2009, twice the number who did so in 1995, according to a report from the Pew Research Group, but the lifestyles of couples who live together often vary based on their educational attainment.
Unmarried couples who had both earned at least a bachelor’s degree and lived together earned an average of $106,400 annually, about $5,000 more than what married couples earned when living together, and more than twice the $46,540 that unmarried couples without college degrees earned while living together, Pew found, based on its analysis of 2009 Census data.
As a result, the economic benefits of cohabitation vary significantly, too. College-educated adults who don’t live with a significant other provide 88% of their household’s income, but when living in a house as part of a couple, he or she typically accounts for up to 50% of the household income, which likely lightens the burdens of everyday expenses.
By comparison, an adult member of an unmarried couple without a college education makes up 42% of his or her overall household income, compared with 43% when he or she doesn’t live with a significant other. That insignificant difference is due in part to the fact that those with less education are more likely to live with family to help make ends meet, meaning they save less money – if any – by moving in with a girlfriend or boyfriend than someone who is college educated and potentially living on his or her own anyway.
“For the most educated, living as an unmarried couple typically is an economically productive way to combine two incomes and is a step toward marriage and childbearing,” Pew’s researchers note. “For adults without college degrees, cohabitation is more likely to be a parallel household arrangement to marriage – complete with children – but at a lower economic level than married adults enjoy.”
Indeed, just a third of unmarried, college-educated couples lived with children, while two-thirds of couples without a college degree lived with children, the data show. Perhaps for this reason, more college-educated couples lived in two-income households than those without college degrees, which in turn led to a higher overall household income, making it that much more financially beneficial for well-educated couples to live together.
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