According to the U.S. Census Bureau (also see The Christian Post), the number of unmarried couples who are living together instead of getting married rose 13 percent. There were 6.7 million cohabiting couples in the year 2009, and this year there are 7.5 million couples living together. Another troubling factor is that there is a much higher rate of cohabitation in the South (38 percent) than any other section of the country.
Why the 13 percent rise in cohabitation from last year? Some demographers say the cause is a poor job market.
“Pooling resources by moving in together may be one method of coping
with extended unemployment of one of the partners,” said Rose Kreider, a
demographer in the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division
at the Census Bureau, according to Agence France-Presse.
This year is the third year of the "Great Recession," noted Kreider, and couples may be trying to stay afloat by moving in together after "exhausting" other ways to stay financially solvent.
The Wall Street Journal features an article on this same topic called "The Generation That Can't Move On Up," written by Andrew J. Cherlin and W. Bradford Wilcox. They believe that fear is a major factor in the marriage rates of working-class young people. "Working-class couples still value marriage highly, but with their paychecks
shrinking, they don’t think they have enough money to make a marriage
Of course, the natural result of increased cohabitation is out-of-wedlock births, and that number has also risen from 10 to 27 percent in a little over a decade.
But is marriage just an economic arrangement? For Christians, marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman before God. And by the way, it seems to me that instead of concentrating on gay marriage as the big, bad wolf to traditional marriage, Christians should be focusing on cohabitation (and possibly divorce rates among Christians?) as a huge problem. The Bible Belt, which is supposedly the bedrock of Christian values, has the highest rate of cohabitation in the U.S. How can we point a finger at same-sex marriage and call it a sin while we have 38 percent of couples living together without the benefit of marriage and not call it sin? Marriage is clearly under attack in the U.S., but same-sex marriage cannot be the major focus at this point.
The good news is that at least one church is trying to combat this trend. Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas organized a "Big Summer Wedding" event last year to get couples to the altar, and 32 couples were married. The executive pastor at Trinity, Matt Spears, said their goal was " . . . simple - we wanted to help couples." Hopefully more churches will want to help couples by organizing similar initiatives to get more couples who are living together to the altar.