Census shows more people living in ‘nontraditional’ householdsFARGO – Barely a generation ago, moral and societal standards typically vilified cohabitation as “living in sin.” But in a measurable shift into the modern era, more and more people simply call it everyday life, according to an analysis by The Forum of 2010 Census data.
FARGO – Barely a generation ago, moral and societal standards typically vilified cohabitation as “living in sin.”
But in a measurable shift into the modern era, more and more people simply call it everyday life, according to an analysis by The Forum of 2010 Census data.
More Americans – especially in Fargo-Moorhead – are opting to live in alternative households, where a “family” isn’t necessarily defined as a married man and woman, plus their children.
The Forum compared 2010 and 2000 Census data for households in North Dakota, Minnesota, Cass and Clay counties, Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth.
The analysis revealed that the overall proportion of married-couple families in the Red River Valley region – while still significant – has declined in the past decade.
In trade, nontraditional families are on the rise – with an increase in the proportion of households comprised of single parents and their kids, unmarried couples and roommates, extended families and people choosing to live alone.
Sabin, Minn., resident Jennifer Bergstrom is an example of this new trend that bucks traditional standards.
Bergstrom, 34, and her fiancé, Scott Bond, became engaged seven years ago, around the time their eldest child, Alexander, was born.
The couple has lived together since, and they’ve also had two more children: Madeline, 4, and Elizabeth, 21 months.
But Bergstrom and Bond just never got around to tying the knot, she said.
“We always planned on it,” Bergstrom said. “We just need to plan a wedding.”
Between work and raising their growing family, saving for the big day simply fell to the back burner over the years, she said.
“We’re definitely not unmarried because we don’t want to be (married),” Bergstrom said.
She and Bond are in a committed relationship, raising their children together – a non-traditional lifestyle choice many others in the metro appear to be making, the census data shows.
In North Dakota, Cass County, Fargo and Moorhead, the population follows a national trend where less than half of residents defined themselves as married couples in the 2010 Census.
Dilworth was the only place in the region where the proportion of married-couple families rose between 2000 and 2010.
Solo-living made up the second-highest proportion of residents across the metro, followed by single-parent homes.
Living with a roommate or unmarried partner, as Bergstrom does, makes up the minority of the general population – despite the gains indicated by the Census figures.
The data simply reflects a much more accepting culture in American society, said Bill Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor who directs the Marriage and Family Therapy Program there.
“In the early ’70s, people talked about ‘living in sin,’ ” he said. “(But) nowadays, when people decide to shift into more traditional marriage, they may be asked why they feel the need to do that.”
In Bergstrom’s case, though, she’s been asked by her friends about the opposite: Why hasn’t she gotten married?
Other women less close to her have been even more blunt on the topic, she said.
“Some people are still very judgmental and assuming if you’re not married – well, fill-in-the-blank,” Bergstrom said.
She recalled a recent chat with a woman at a local park, who said something to the effect of: “Aren’t you just ready to get it over with and stop living in sin?”
“I really know that I should be married,” Bergstrom said, “but on the other hand, I kind of wonder about the judgment from people.”
Up until four years ago, a living arrangement such as Bergstrom’s was technically illegal in North Dakota.
Despite the increasingly common practice, unmarried men and women weren’t allowed to live together under state law.
The outdated provision stemmed from territorial days and went unenforced since 1938, but despite repeated repeal attempts, it still took until 2007 for the Legislature to overturn the law.
Supporters of the measure that year proclaimed it was time North Dakota entered the 21st century – especially since more than 3 percent of the statewide population was breaking the existing law.
Under the revision passed in 2007, it’s now only illegal for unmarried couples who live together to lie about being married.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541