Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Percentage of Married Adults in the U.S. Hits a Record Low

Barely half of all adults (51%) in the United States — a record low — are currently married. In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below 50% within a few years. Other adult living arrangements — including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood — have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

A Pew Research Center analysis of Census data also finds that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that could be related to the sour economy.

The declines have occurred among all age groups but are most dramatic among young adults. Today, just 20% of adults ages 18 to 29 are married, compared with 59% in 1960. Over the course of the past 50 years, the median age at first marriage has risen by about six years for both men and women.

The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has been visible in most other advanced, post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the ups and downs of the economy. Read More