Cohabiting Couples and Their Money

Nov 22, 2011

The Census Bureau recently released results from its alternative measure of poverty, which uses a wider range of factors than the official metric to account for people’s living expenses and the money or other resources they have to pay them. Most of the reaction to the alternative measure focused on its overall impact on poverty rates, but the new metric also is notable for breaking with tradition in the way it assumes cohabiting couples share their money.

Under the traditional measure of poverty, unmarried couples who live together are counted as separate units.  Under the alternative metric, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, the assumption is that cohabiting couples pool their funds and share expenses just as married couples do. The result: A lower share of cohabiting couples is considered poor under the alternative metric than under the official measure.

This is because living as a couple is more economically efficient than living as two single people. A couple does not need twice the income of two single people. For example, two single roommates might prefer a two-bedroom apartment but a couple can manage with a one-bedroom apartment.

Read the full report, Cohabiting Couples and Their Money, on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Web site.

Read more about the new Supplemental Poverty Measure in Re-Counting Poverty on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Web site.

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