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More and more people are choosing to live together and have children without being married.
The number of those living together without being married has doubled in the past 16 years and is the fastest-growing household type in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The number of same-sex cohabiting couples has soared from 16,000 to 69,000 since 1996, the earliest year for which data are available.
The biggest increase in cohabitation was among the over-65s, driven by an increasing number of divorcees.
Nearly a third of births are now registered to unmarried couples, while the proportion for married couples fell from two-thirds in 1996 to just over half in 2010. The remainder are single parents. The vast majority of single-parent households – 91 per cent – are women, a proportion which has changed little since the data collection began.
Although the long-term trend in marriage is strongly downwards, it has staged a small comeback in the past couple of years: the number of people getting married increased 3.7 per cent in 2010 according to data released by ONS last year. But four-fifths of those who marry lived together beforehand.
Other findings in the ONS research include a sharp increase in the number of middle-aged people living alone. Nearly 2.5m people aged 45 to 64 now live on their own, up 830,000 since 1996.
Source: Financial Times