Roommates Are the New Spouses

It's no surprise that many millennials live with roommates, but you may be shocked to learn just how recent the trend toward living with roommates is. Back in the 1960s, 84% of people not residing at home or in college dorms lived with spouses, whereas only 6% of individuals lived with platonic roommates. In fact, the number of people living with roommates has increased fivefold since the 1960s. The change can be attributed to the economic hardships faced by our generation, and the increasing role of women in the workforce.

Many millennial couples have to spend time saving money before they can enter into marriage and form new households. Young couples are often saddled with student loans, as the average student accumulates $26,600 of debt — almost the exact cost of the average wedding ($28,400). Between those loans and a sluggish job market (the unemployment rate for millennial is 16%), couples can't exactly worry about saving for caterers, booking fees, and wedding gowns. Instead, millennial couples often cohabitate as roommates, rather than as spouses.

Another factor contributing to the rise of roommate situations is the increasing number of educated women in the workforce. Educated women are now able to obtain better jobs, providing an alternative to the financial benefits of matrimony. The creation of birth control enabled more women to pursue higher education, allowing them to focus on their careers and delay marriage. As they did so, the social norms surrounding marriage and cohabitation changed. Women can now live with men and other women as platonic roommates because marriage isn’t seen as a necessity.

Even though many millennials are waiting to marry, ours is more than a hookup generation (plus, 28% of us have gotten hitched). People are marrying later because incentives have changed, and therefore living with roommates rather than spouses.