Why is Black cohabitation stigmatized in our community?

Whites lead in trend and Blacks feel pressure

Carla St.Louis | 3/6/2014, 9 a.m.

While white couples are forgoing marriage for cohabitation focusing on child-rearing, their Black counterparts continue to feel the brunt of it from an unlikely source — their own community.

Only 10.6 percent of Black couples with at least one child chose to cohabit. The figure decreases to 8.6 percent when children are not present.

The typical face of a couple living in cohabitation is white, between the ages of 15-29 years old, has a high school diploma, attended college but didn't graduate and earns between $30,000 - $39,000 annually or below the poverty index guideline. The figure increases to 63.9 percent for couples without children.

Redefining marriage, 21st-century style

White couples lead in cohabitation, with 46.4 percent of couples with at least one child opting to cohabit, according to the 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Prompted by a cultural shift in the purpose of marriage, adults in their 20s in America have reinvented marriage as a machine for parenting with less emphasis on financial expectations or gender roles.

Of the small percentage of Black couples who decide to cohabit they are faced with disapproval of their decision from older relatives and the community.

Patricia Geffrard, 33, a mother of five boys, ages 16, 12, 8, 7 and 1 knows the experience all too well.

"My cousin would say things like 'I wish things would be better for you' all the time," she said. I felt bad about it because I am living with a man I'm not married to. [...] Although my sister and aunt disapproved they both supported my decision."

"We have four children together,"Geffrard said as the driving factor to cohabit with her longtime boyfriend. "At the time we were young — me, 19 and him, 24." Although she described their relationship as "on and off," she said she wanted marriage. "He proposed but it didn't happen," she said. "We decided to stick together to raise our children."

Eveulibi Lowe, 30 of Brownsville experienced the most resistance to his relationship from his girlfriend — not relatives.

He described their cohabitation as stormy, made increasingly difficult by his girlfriend's "personal" problem. "It could have been good but I quickly realized it came with adult problems," he said. "She wasn't willing to work on the problem even though I always addressed it. Eventually it became an issue in our relationship."

"We moved in together when I was 27 and she was 26 years old," he said of his past girlfriend. "Naturally, I wanted to take our relationship to the next level; I wanted to see if we were compatible," he said. "We lived together for two years and we moved in because we were in love with each other. I tried to make it work because of her two year old son [from a previous relationship] who I was raising [...] but it couldn't work."

Anchanette Ganett, 25 and her boyfriend, Zevin Oliver are preparing for another aspect of cohabitation — marriage.

"We've been living together for four years," said Ganett, a patient care technician. "I was pregnant with my second child and we both felt we were ready to take our relationship more seriously."