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Which Marriages Last 10 Years?

Trove of Marriage, Cohabitation Data Released by CDC

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

March 2, 2010 -- Will your marriage survive at least 10 years? The odds are worse if you're young or have no kids during the marriage, the CDC reports.

The findings come from a new CDC report on U.S. marriage and cohabitation. The data were collected in 2002 in one-on-one interviews with a nationally representative sample of some 7,600 women and 5,000 men.

The report is based on heterosexual relationships, defining cohabitation as a man and a woman living together in a sexual relationship without being married.

Here are some highlights of the report.

Which Marriages Last 10 Years?

Get married young, break up young. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 54% for women and 47% for men who get married between ages 15 and 19
  • 64% for women and 65% for men who get married between ages 20 and 25
  • 76% for women and 73% for men who get married at 26 or older

Do children affect marriages? Apparently so. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 34% for women and 37% for men who have no children during the marriage
  • 55% for women and 65% for men who have a first child by their eventual husband or wife before marriage
  • 79% for women and 79% for men whose first child is born at least eight months after marriage
  • Having children doesn't mean the marriage lasts a lifetime. 1997 data show that only 57% of marriages last 15 years, and only half last 20 years.

Will your marriage last longer if you first explore living together? Maybe not -- even if you cohabit with your eventual spouse. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 60% for women and 62% for men who ever cohabited
  • 61% for women and 63% for men who cohabited with their first spouse
  • 66% for women and 69% for men who never cohabited

Education makes a difference. But there's at least one surprise here: Just getting a high school diploma doesn't help, but a college degree makes a big difference. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 54% for women and 56% for men with a high school diploma or GED
  • 63% for women and 61% for men with no high school diploma or GED
  • 62% for women and 64% for men with some college but no degree
  • 78% for women and 81% for men with a bachelor's degree or higher

Your family structure makes a difference, too, most markedly for women. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 67% for women and 66% for men who lived in a two-parent household at age 14
  • 48% for women and 63% for men who did not live in a two-parent household at age 14

Marriage success rates differ by race and ethnicity. The odds of a marriage lasting at least 10 years are:

  • 51% for black, non-Hispanic men and women
  • 64% for white, non-Hispanic men and women
  • 68% for Hispanic women and 75% for Hispanic men

Cohabitation Facts

The CDC data offer fascinating glimpses of U.S. cohabitation:

  • From 1987 to 2002, the percentage of women who ever cohabited more than doubled, from 30% to 61%.
  • For women ages 19 to 44, more than half of marriages from 1990 to 1994 began as cohabitations.
  • More than half of births outside marriage occur in cohabitations.
  • Over 40% of U.S. children will spend some time in a cohabiting household.
  • For women ages 18 to 19, cohabitation is over twice as common as marriage (11% vs. 5%).
  • For women ages 25 to 44, marriage is nearly eight times more common than cohabitation (62% vs. 8%).
  • More than half of couples in their first cohabitation marry within three years.

SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics: "Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth."

News release, CDC.

CDC fact sheet.

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