Married couples are no longer the majority in Kentucky

The Lexington Herald-LeaderJune 6, 2011 

Joey Rose and Keith Lovan say they face the same challenges as any other couple. They have lived together for 121/2 years and are raising a 7-year-old.

They can't get married, though — what the majority of couples in Kentucky have done for decades.

But for the first time in Kentucky, the traditional husband-wife couple household is no longer the majority. That puts Rose and Lovan — along with other same-sex or cohabiting couples, and divorced, widowed and single people —in a new majority.

The traditional husband-wife couple makes up just 49.3 percent of the total households in Kentucky, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. That's down from 53.9 percent in 2000.

In this, Kentucky mirrors the country. According to a Herald-Leader analysis of census data, the percentage of husband-wife households has dropped at least a little in every state during the past decade.

Utah, which has the highest percentage of husband-wife households, dropped from 63.2 percent in 2000 to 61 percent in 2010. At the opposite end, New Mexico dropped 5.1 percentage points, from 50.4 to 45.3.

A decade ago, 44 states had husband-wife household majorities; today, only 13 do. But why? Is it cohabitation; same-sex partners who can't marry in many places, including Kentucky; or divorce and widowhood, and people just living longer?

It's all of the above, even while divorce rates are leveling off. Several different census reports paint a picture of fewer divorces, in part because young people are delaying marriage — some in favor of cohabitation and still others not marrying at all. It all adds up to fewer traditional husband-wife marriages.

Kara Poarch of Lexington has lived with her boyfriend for about three years, and they have a 7-month-old son. She said even though they are not legally married, she considers him her husband.

"Sometimes if you get married, it's like a curse," she said. "It puts too much pressure legally on you."

Rose said the idea of the "nuclear family," dating back to the 1950s, is no longer relevant. "That's what we cling to right now," he said, "but reality does not reflect that now."

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