Throughout much of the last century, there was a very definitive way in which a couple began their lives together: marriage first, then living together, then baby. However, as living together and having a baby before marriage becomes less taboo and as couples are growing increasingly wary of the emotional and financial tolls of divorce, there has been a dramatic shift away from the traditional process. This is more present within the working class, according to a new study which recently found that lower levels of education often correlates with children without marriage.

According to the study, which was performed by the National Marriage Project, 44 percent of Americans with high school diplomas but without college degrees have children but are not married. This number has tripled since the 1970s. What makes this statistic especially interesting is that half of those 44 percent are couples in their 20s and 30s who are living and raising their children together, but who remain unmarried for any of a number of reasons.

Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project says that finances have a great deal to do with the hesitation to marry. For the past 30 years, men have experienced a decrease in earnings, which can affect the desire to marry. "That makes [men] less attractive both in their eyes and in the eyes of their partners, as husbands," he said, adding that couples now think ahead to the costly possibility of divorce when considering marriage. "Both in terms of thinking about getting married, but also in terms of staying married."

Although finances are largely keeping these working class couples from being married, Wilcox says that there is a strong reason to find a way to make it work: unmarried parents are more than twice as likely to separate than married parents by the time their child is five.

Source: NPR, "Unmarried With Kids: A Shift In The Working Class", Jennifer Ludden, 6 December 2010