NEW YORK - More Americans 50 years and older are copying younger generations and eschewing marriage, opting instead to live with their partners, according to new research.
In 2016 about 18 million Americans were cohabiting, defined as living with an unmarried partner, and nearly a quarter of them were people over 50, an increase of 75 per cent since 2007, data released on Thursday from Pew Research Center showed.
"Baby Boomers have a higher divorce rate and there are a greater number of unmarried people in that age group" than previously, Pew research analyst Renee Stepler said in an interview Thursday.
Government figures show that so-called "gray divorce," or splits among adults 50 and over, has about doubled since the 1990s and could partly account for the increase in cohabitation.
Fewer marriages, changing social norms and women's greater economic independence are other explanations for the rise, Stepler added.
As cohabiting has gone up, the marriage rate in the United States has dropped, from 8.2 per 1,000 population in 2000 to 6.9 in 2014, according to figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stepler also pointed to an increase in the number of older Americans who have never married. Pew found that 27 per cent of people 50 years and older who are cohabiting have never married, while more than half are divorced and 13 per cent are widowed.
In younger age groups, the majority of cohabiting adults have never tied the knot: 97 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 85 per cent of 25-34 year olds.
Although cohabitation rates are rising, cohabiting couples account for only about 7 per cent of the overall US population and 4 per cent of over-50s.
Most older cohabiting couples were in their 50s. But nearly 30 per cent of them were in their 60s, 10 per cent in their 70s and 3 per cent were 80 years or older.
Pew Research Center compiled its findings on cohabiting by analysing data from US Census Bureau and the Current Population Survey, which included information on 134,562 adults ages 18 and older. The survey is sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.