Marriage Rates Continue to Fall

Trend Has Lasted for Decades

Americans are increasingly forgoing one of the biggest milestones on the way to adulthood: marriage. According to a New York Times report, 20 percent of adults older than 25—about 42 million people—have never married, up from 9 percent in 1960. The report uses data from a Pew Research Center study published recently.

The trend has been consistent for decades. Since 1970, each group of young adults has been less likely to marry than the previous generation. Although part of the trend can be attributed to the fact that people are simply marrying older, Pew projects that a quarter of today’s young adults will have never married by 2030, which would be the highest share in modern history.

So as the politicians debate the relationship among marriage, parenthood, and poverty, young people seem to be sending policy makers a message: that marriage is not necessarily part of the plan. That shift could reshape not just American families, but also policies like those around taxes, children, and entitlements.

Educated, high-income people are still marrying at high rates and tending to stay married, according to economists and demographers who study the issue. Remaining unmarried is more common among the less educated, blacks, and the young, Pew found.

Men are more likely than women to remain unmarried, 23 percent to 17 percent. Part of that is linked to the fact that the share of men aged 25 to 54 who are not working has been increasing for 50 years. At the same time, 78 percent of never-married women say that a mate with a steady job would be very important to them, more than any other quality in choosing a spouse. Pew analyzed the pool of employed, unmarried men, compared with all unmarried women. There are 65 employed men for every 100 women.

Though marriage was once a steppingstone to economic stability, young adults now see financial stability as a prerequisite for marriage. More than a quarter of those who say they want to marry someday say they haven’t yet because they are not financially prepared, according to Pew.


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