‘I do’ not? Marriage rates at record low, Pew analysis finds


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When it comes to saying “I do,” more and more Americans seem to really mean, “Not so much,” according to a new analysis of the increasingly troubled institution of marriage.

Just over half of all adult Americans, 51%, are currently married, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Pew Research Center. The center predicts that, if the current trends continue, the share of currently married adults will fall below half within a few years. In 1960, 72% of all adults 18 and older were married.


The analysis shows that though traditional marriage is giving way, other lifestyle forms -- including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood -- are growing. It found that the number of new marriages in the United States declined by 5% from 2009 to 2010.

Interestingly, the United States is not alone in moving away from the institution of marriage, according to the survey.

“The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad,” notes the report released Wednesday.

As is usually the case, it is the young who are leading the way in demographic changes. Just 1 in 5, 20%, of adults 18 to 29 are married, compared to 59% in 1960.

The young are also waiting to marry, the analysis found. In the past half century, the median age for first marriage has risen by about six years for both sexes, with grooms taking their first plunge at 28.7 years and brides at 26.5 years.

Divorce has been a factor in keeping the ranks of the currently married down, but it is unclear how important it has been. Divorce rates climbed in the 1960s and 1970s, but have leveled off in the last two decades. About 72% of adults have been married at least once, down from 85% in 1960.


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-- Michael Muskal