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ONS publishes report on living arrangements and marital status in England and Wales

Date:27 MAR 2014
Journals Manager + Online Editor

The Office for National Statistics have today published their report, How Have Living Arrangements and Marital Status in England and Wales Changed Since 2001?

This release analyses 2011 Census data on marital status (legal partnership status including marriage and civil partnership) for adults (aged 16 and over) usually resident in England and Wales, noting key changes since 2001.

Living arrangements of those resident in households are also analysed as an alternative to legal partnership status, including those cohabiting who are not in a legal partnership (living arrangements for those living in communal establishments are not recorded). Analyses are summarised at national and local authority levels. Comparisons are made with Scotland, Northern Ireland and other developed countries.

Data revealed by the office of national statistics shows that the number of people over 40 living with their partner but not married has increased from 31 per cent in 2001 to 41 per cent in 2011.

The census also shows that a large number of people - 785,000 - were married but not living together as a married couple. this represents nearly four percent of the married household population.  The ONS suggested that this could be work related or because one member was living in a care home.

Around 145,000 of the people married but not living together were cohabiting with a different partner.

Speaking of the report, Louise Halford, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said:

'In 10 years the number of people over 40 cohabiting has increased significantly which represents the modern attitudes to marriage and living together. In recent years there has been an increase in the older population getting divorced - this is in part due to the stigma of divorce being removed and also because of things such as empty nest syndrome whereby parents realise they no longer wish to be together after their children have gone on to university or moved out.

Many couples don't realise that the legislation in this area has not moved with the times and this means cohabiting partners generally have very few rights in the event of relationship breakdown"

What these figures highlight is the importance of cohabitation agreements and ensuring that each partner has protection should anything go wrong. This is especially crucial for those that are still technically married but are living with another partner or where children are involved.'

Key findings of the report include:

  • The proportions of single and married adults varied little between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Almost half (45% to 48%) were married. The proportion of adults in civil partnerships was highest in England (0.2%), double that of the lowest, Northern Ireland (0.1%).
  • The single (never married) category showed the greatest increase in proportion: from 30% (12.5 million) in 2001 to 35% (15.7 million) in 2011 in England and Wales. More people aged 30 to 49 were single, rising from 24% in 2001 to 31% in 2011.
  • London had eight of the ten local authorities with the highest proportions of single people in the adult population in 2011; the highest was Islington (60%). These high proportions reflect the younger age structure of London compared to other regions.
  • Widowed was the only marital status category to show declines in both number and proportion; from 3.5 million (8.4%) in 2001 to 3.2 million (7.0%) in 2011. This reflects increases in life expectancy.
  • More than half of adults living in households in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were living as a couple in 2011, either married or cohabiting. Cohabitation levels were lowest in Northern Ireland (6.2%) and highest in England (11.9%).
  • 3.7% (785,000) of married people living in households were not living together as a married couple and did not identify themselves as separated. 82% (640,000) of these were ‘living apart together' (married or civil partnered, not separated and not living in a couple), an increase of 71%, from 375,000 in 2001. The remaining 18% (145,000) were cohabiting with another partner (and likely to be separated even though they had not stated this).
  • In 2011, 12 per cent (5.3 million) of adults living in households in England and Wales were living as part of a cohabiting couple; this was an increase from 9.8% (4.0 million) in 2001. The age group that saw the largest increase in people cohabiting were those aged 40 to 49 (from 9.3% in 2001 to 14% in 2011). 

The full report is available to download below.