Marriage Rates at All-Time Low

by Nancy Frazier O’Brien

WASHINGTON (CNS) – With cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood on the rise, the percentage of Americans who are currently married has reached an all-time low.

A new report from the Pew Research Center analyzing Census Bureau data found that only 51% of Americans 18 and over were married in 2010, compared with 72% in 1960. Among Hispanics and African-Americans, the decline is even more steep.

“If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years,” said the report by Pew senior writer D’Vera Cohn, senior demographer Jeffrey S. Passel and research associate Wendy Wang.

Fifty-five percent of white Americans were married in 2010, down from 74% 50 years earlier. But among Hispanics and blacks, married people are already in the minority. Forty-eight percent of Hispanics and 31% of African-Americans were married in 2010, compared with 72% and 61%, respectively, in 1960.

The authors said it was “beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why marriage has declined,” but they noted that its popularity has fallen less sharply among college graduates.

They said a recent drop in the number of new marriages could have to do with the economic recession, but the linkage “is not entirely clear.”

The Pew report found that the median age at first marriage has been steadily rising for both men and women over the past five decades, from 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women in 1960. The median age in 2010 was 26.5 for women and 28.7 for men.