Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides and grooms according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data released December 14.
In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years.
The Pew Research analysis 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 may or may not be related to the sour economy.
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 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.
In the United States, 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. It is not yet known whether today’s young adults are abandoning marriage or merely delaying it.