Marriage Minutes: Has the Decline of Marriage Been Exaggerated? Pew Research Center has released a new set of data showing share of never-married Americans are at record numbers, but does that mean marriage is on its way out? BY HITCHED EDITORS
Is marriage really on the way out or are people just marrying later in life?
“ Digging even deeper into the data, the number of adults who are still single at the age of 64 in 1960 were 8% whereas that number actually dropped in 2012 to 7%.”
The following is a news item selected by the Hitched editors during the week of October 02, 2014.
What Does It Mean That a Record Number of Americans Have Never Married?
The Pew Research Center has released a new report looking at the marriage trends dating back to the 1960s. To be honest, there was not much that was surprising in the U.S. Census data that was analyzed. The median age of first time marriage is up for both men and women—in 1960 the median age for women was 20 and in 2012 it was 27; for men the median age rose from 23 to 29. Other trends in marriage that we've seen in the past also held, for instance, better economic standing and better education both boost the likelihood of marriage—this wasn't the necessarily the case back in the 1960s.
The biggest finding in this report was that there is now a record number of Americans ages 25 and older who have never been married (23% for men and 17% for women). These numbers are up from 10% for men and 8% for women in 1960.
There has clearly been a shift in the age at which American adults reach different life stages in 2012 compared to 1960. For example, today's young adults are more likely, in comparison to their elders born in the 60s, to attend college, begin a career later, get married later, retire later, and also die later—the average life expectancy is up around 10 years. So in 1960 when the data was collected on marriage, Americans were retiring and near death, today there's roughly another decade and a half for which could be collected. Of course, the number of adults who get married for the first time after the age of 64 is small, but it does happen. Let's look even deeper at the life stage shift.
Since the median age of first marriage for men and women were both younger than 25, it makes sense that less people are married at age 25 or older in 2012 when the median ages for first marriage is two and four years after the starting point of this data marker. Digging even deeper into the data, the number of adults who are still single at the age of 64 in 1960 were 8% whereas that number actually dropped in 2012 to 7%. When we spoke with Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research and one of the lead authors of the report, she noted that these 64-year-old couples in 2012 were born in the 1940s when the attitude toward marriage hadn't taken on our current downward trends.
Another interesting note about the number of adults married is the growing legalization of marriage among the LGBT community. Gay marriage is currently legal in just 19 states and Washington DC. If you were an adult in one of the other 31 states where it isn't legal, it's possible you're not married because you can't. The Census is just now including same-sex couples with their married data. While more Americans are identifying themselves as gay, the estimated U.S. population is somewhere around 3.5-5%. So the opportunity for more honest and open marriages for these Americans still doesn't offset the declining first-time marriages in the U.S.
As mentioned at the top, education and economic security seems to be playing a big role. A survey asking if unmarried adults would eventually like to get married, the number between 2010 and 2014 changed just 1% for those who said "no." When asked why they aren't currently married, the highest percentage of adults age 18-24 cited "not ready to settle down/too young" (33%), the highest percentage of 25-34-year olds said "not financially prepared" (34%), and the largest group of 35 and older said "haven't found what they are looking for" (41%).
Data in the report shows how the economy, which has not been kind to the majority of Americans recently is taking a toll on the prospects of marriage. Parker, mentioned that this report shows the current data trends, but that an economic boom could change the trend line in the future. That's the thing with forecasting though, you just don't know the future, you can only see the direction things are pointing. One trend line we see is that the institution of marriage isn't going away anytime soon.