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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2006 Mar;61(2):S71-9.

Cohabitation among older adults: a national portrait.

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  • 1Department of Sociology and Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA.



Older adults are increasingly likely to experience cohabitation, or living together unmarried in an intimate, heterosexual union. In order to begin building a conceptual framework, we provide a descriptive portrait of older adult cohabitors, emphasizing how they compare to older remarrieds and unpartnereds.


We used data from both Census 2000 and the 1998 Health and Retirement Study ( HRS; Health and Retirement Study, 1998) to estimate the size and composition of the cohabiting population aged 51 and older. Also, using HRS data, we estimated multinomial logistic regression models to identify the correlates associated with cohabitation and remarriage (vs being unpartnered) among women and men who were previously married.


More than 1 million older adults, composing 4% of the unmarried population, currently cohabit. About 90% of these individuals were previously married. We identify significant differences among cohabitors, remarrieds, and unpartnereds across several dimensions, including sociodemographic characteristics, economic resources, physical health, and social relationships. Cohabitors appear to be more disadvantaged than remarrieds, and this is especially evident for women.


Older cohabitors differ from individuals of other marital statuses, and therefore future work on marital status should explicitly incorporate cohabitation.

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