From Our 2010 Archives

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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