Half of cohabitants still together after 15 years

© CBS/Nikki van Toorn
Of all couples who first started cohabiting in 2000, 53 percent were still living together 15 years later. Almost all of the couples who were still united had one or more children together, while 80 percent had gotten married. This is evident from new cohort analyses which were conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

In this research, CBS used municipal register data up to 2015 to follow the relationship status of all married and unmarried heterosexual couples who moved in together in 2000 and had no children at the time. For one-quarter of the first-time cohabitants from 2000, the relationship had ended within five years. Another one-quarter of the couples separated at a later stage.

Relationship status of first-time cohabitants from 2000 (%)
 Cohabiting, no child(ren)Married, no child(ren)Cohabiting, child(ren)Married, child(ren)Split up
'0182.7814.841.351.030
'0265.8216.423.415.368.99
'0348.3117.414.9310.618.75
'0434.8817.056.416.6125.06
'0524.8215.487.7822.5329.39
'0617.313.078.8828.0132.74
'0711.9910.489.6632.4435.44
'088.288.3510.0435.7537.59
'095.926.4710.1238.1339.36
'104.35.349.8939.6640.82
'113.334.449.5340.5142.18
'122.713.829.1741.0243.29
'132.313.48.841.1444.36
'142.073.138.4940.8945.43
'151.92.938.2340.4546.5

Separation, marriage or children

The analysis demonstrates that cohabiting couples either split up after a few years or stay together for a longer period of time and have children and/or get married. Of the couples who became cohabitants in 2000 for the first time in their lives and did not get married nor had any children, 94 percent were no longer together in 2015. The break-up usually occurred in the first years of cohabitation.

Some of the couples staying together longer, getting married or having children have been shown to split up as well. However, the odds of separation are much lower, among couples with children in particular. Of the total group who ended the first-time cohabitation between 2000 and 2015, especially within the first five years, 79 percent were still childless while 21 percent had one or more children in the meantime.

Relationship status at break-up between 2000 and 2015 (% of first-time cohabitants)
 Cohabiting, no child(ren)Married, no child(ren)Cohabiting, child(ren)Married, child(ren)
Total70.09.07.014.0
Both highly educated84.35.02.88.0
Not highly educated62.910.69.317.3

Higher-educated couples with children less likely to split up

Almost half of all couples, including those with two higher-educated partners (i.e. who completed higher professional or university education) were no longer together after 15 years. Couples without a high-education background were relatively more likely to have one or more children at the time of separation (27 percent) than those with higher education (11 percent). They were also more likely to be married (28 percent versus 13 percent).