Pew Research Center is reporting the number of married couples has fallen to a record low as more people choose to live together while holding off on the formality and permanency of tying the knot.
The Pew organization’s analysis of U.S. Census data found that barely half of all adults 18 and older in the United States, 51%, are married, down from 57% of adults in 2000. In 1960, 72% of adults were married, reflecting decades of evolving attitudes about the role of marriage in society. Pew also found the median age at first marriage has never been higher for women (26.5 years) and men (28.7). The media age for brides was barely 20 years old in 1960, when most of today’s baby boomers were children, and grooms were typically just a couple of years older.
Assuming current trends continue, the percentage of married adults will drop to below 50% within a few years, as other adult living arrangements such as cohabitation, single-person households, and single parenthood have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.
Pew Research’s analysis also found the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010. This sharp, one-year drop may potentially be explained by the poor economy. One other factor is children born in the 1970s and ’80s, a time when divorce become more socially acceptable and divorce rates rose, reason that watching their parents split up convinced them not to rush into marriage.
Carol Morello, a Demographics reporter for the Washington Post reported “the statistics offer a snapshot in time, and do not mean the unmarried will remain that way.” The steady increase in the median age when people first marry is a key factor in the sliding marriage rate, as is the economic climate, as couples delay their weddings to save money. Morello cites Rose Kreider, a Census Bureau demographer who specializes in household statistics, who noted in 2010 that 7.5 million couples were living together without being married, a huge, 13% jump in just one year. Many of these people had a partner who’d lost a job, or they could not afford to maintain two homes.
Pew’s analysis found that college-educated people are much more likely to marry, with nearly two-out-of-three college graduates being married compared to less than 50% for people have only a high school education. Again, economic factors may explain these numbers as the economy has hit lesser-educated individuals the hardest.