December 14, 2011

Marriage Rate Declines and Marriage Age Rises

A new Pew Research Center report confirms that marriage continues to lose market share among Americans to other arrangements, such as cohabitation or living alone. According to census data cited in the report, barely half of adults ages 18 and older are married– 51% in 2010, compared with 72% in 1960. This decline is especially notable for young adults: 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds were married in 2010, compared with 59% in 1960.

Associated with this trend is that the age at which men and women marry for the first time continues to rise to record levels. In 2011, the median age at first marriage is an estimated 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. That means half of men don’t marry until at least about age 29, and half of women don’t marry until at least about age 27. In 1960, the median age at first marriage for both men and women was in the early 20s.

A third key statistic in the report is an analysis of the number of newlyweds–that is, people who married in the previous year. In the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, that number was down 5% from what it was in 2009, which may or may not be related to economic hard times.

The report also includes data on public attitudes about marriage. Although 39% of Americans say they agree that marriage is becoming obsolete, most people who have never married say they would like to marry someday (including many who agree that marriage is becoming obsolete).

The new report is part of a Pew Research series on the decline of marriage.