Study: Number of U.S. married couples at record low
Brides are in abundance in some places, like Colombia this month during a mass wedding, but nuptials are down elsewhere.
December 14th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Study: Number of U.S. married couples at record low

The number of married couples in the United States is at a record low, according to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center.

Numbers released Wednesday show 51% of American adults are married, a 5% drop from the previous year in new nuptials. The median age that people get married has risen to 26.5 years for brides and 28.7 for grooms.

Read the Pew Research Center report on marriage

The numbers reflect an increase in other living arrangements that have taken hold for American adults, such as cohabitation, divorce, single parenting and the rise of grandfamilies.

If current trends continue, in just a few years there will be more single Americans than married.

In 1960, nearly 60% of  young adults age 18 to 29 were married. Today, 20% have tied the knot.

Experts say America has undergone a cultural shift when it comes to getting hitched.

More U.S. couples living together, study says

“In the 1950s, if you weren’t married, people thought you were mentally ill,” Andrew J. Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, told the Washington Post.  “Marriage was mandatory. Now it’s culturally optional.”

Natasha Medina, a single woman in Los Angeles and founder of Medina Muze Management, a firm that represents production artists, said the traditional relationship between men and women has changed in the past 50 years.

Women have taken control of their careers and life, she said, “while at the same time men have asked their women to be superwomen,” she said. “We’ve been asked to be business-oriented, a mother, a cook, a great wife … something’s got to give."

Marriage’s eroding “market share” is evident not just in the United States, but all advanced post-industrial societies, the study said, regardless of economic factors.

Along racial lines, the statistics varied greatly: In 1960, 74% of whites were wed. Today 55% are married. Among blacks 31% are married; in 1960, 61% reported being hitched. For Hispanics, 48% are married today, compared with 72% in 1960.

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soundoff (238 Responses)
  1. Jacintha

    That should reduce the high divorce rate in America!

    December 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MrKagema

    Maybe Congress should go back to work on the Defense of Marriage Act 🙂

    December 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kyle

    Now maybe if we let gays marry....

    December 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. brett

    the funny thing some actually think it is because the president won't defend DOMA for the reason of low marriage, like gay peoples marriage actually affects straight peoples ability or want to be married.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin in Atlanta

    Until I find a lady that isn't psycho, I may consider it. Until then, I'm thoroughly enjoying my bachelor life...

    December 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      They don't exist in North America. They all have princess syndrome.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will


      December 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexanGal

      Not all girls have "princess syndrome". I was raised that a woman was to pull her own weight, and if married to be her husband's helpmate. And I'm not some old granny either, I'm 19. I don't want to be treated like a princess by my man, I want to be treated like a grown capable woman. Generalizing American women is not right. Generalizing ANYBODY is not right.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • brs

      can we please stop using the term "my man". it's annoying as sin

      December 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Newo

      Dear Texan,
      you're 19. You've no idea what you want.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Charlie

    Another female biased article. Why should a man give up all of his rights and get shamed into marrying a woman (80% file for divorce) when he knows there is a greater than 50% chance she will leave him, take everything he owns, and keep him from seeing his children? Marriage is outdated. As far as the superwoman bull crap. I and most men I know can cook and clean and really don't want to put up with a woman's drama all the time. That is a lot of risk to put up with for just some nookie.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      You think an article written by Craig Johnson is biased towards females? Alrighty then..

      December 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Been There

      Charlie - I agree with you. The courts today are totally biased against the husband. The wife could have shacked up with an entire hockey team, but in the divorce settlement, she'll get more than half of the assets, including the house, his retirement AND the kids.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • ann

      I make 3 times what my hubby does and have no interest in what I may or may not be able to "clean" out of his bank accounts should things go south since I don't need it. Perhaps you are dating the wrong women. My husband wasn't sure about marriage until he met me and then changed his mind.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    A lower marriage rate has a lot to do with economics and the concept of individualism in our society. Who want's to take on the responsibilities of a family in this social climate? Or make long- term commitments? It's too bad though. The family is the foundation of a society. My father used to say, "When the American home is strong, America will be strong." Well, the American family certainly has taken a beating lately.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • gaucho420

      Did you consider it strong in the 50s and 60s under jim crowe laws, etc...the past wasn't alway so good and the future isn't all that bad!

      December 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Eddie

    Well! Are American men wising up? We can only hope.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lesterg

    With marriages down, athiesm spreading world-wide, whatever is going to happen to tradtional valoues? Who will be the new value setters? Or are values heading in the same direction as the economy?

    December 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • gaucho420

      If they were worth keeping, they would be kept. Most of these so called value are nothing more than jail cells.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Atheism and values have nothing in common.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      why is getting married a value?
      marriage is simply a man made concept to offcially declare the joining of a couple for legal purposes.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. alateos

    Web ads come in 3 sizes: small, medium, and large.

    Here we're introduced to the never-seen-before size called "Capital One". It basically takes up most of your website's real estate, yet magically leaves enough room for you to still call it your website.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bravo

    Marriage is over-rated, it serves no other purpose other than to provide tax breaks and make it harder legally for either parent to leave when raising children (which obviously isn't that hard). So why get married at all?

    December 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • fall of humanity and economy...

      Asking why getting married is like asking why mothers need to give birth, why parents need to raise their kids, why not just ignore grandparents, what is the purpose of life?

      December 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • brs

      getting married and having a child are not interrelated. And marriage is not a biological process, there are laws of nature that dictate women give birth.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gaucho420

    No surprises as women now get married for the right reasons, rather than for survival, getting away from the parents or making ends meet. I'm 35, live with my GF who's 30, for about 3 years and marriage is something we're putting off until we have kids. We bought a home first, which we beleive is a much wiser move than a marriage license and we've been dating for 7 years.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      dude, a marriage license is 50 bucks. Don't compare the finances of buying a house with marriage.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. clearmind

    This is really sad. Marriage isnt meant for the drive through mentality. What a loss.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fall of humanity and economy...

    Being an immigrant it is very strange to me that many people I asked said they will never get married. I think people are becoming less and less likely to accept responsibilities in life and becoming more and more selfish. (maybe we were like that before, it is just more socially acceptable now) I don't think this trend will make life more meaningful nor more enjoyable. What I do know is that the current trend will hurt family structure, and people will produce less offsprings, life will become less enjoyable when one is old, plus less people will be able to support our economy in the future. I say it is time to mindwash people to get married, because the entertainment industry has been mindwashing people to not get married...

    December 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • QS

      Less people? That would be a good thing at this point.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uthor

      Unless the marriage produces children and they are not taken care of, how is not being married an unwillingness to accept responsibility? Frankly, to realize that you're the type of person who shouldn't be married is a very mature, and ultimately an extremely responsible decision.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Why would I marry someone who can leave me at any time for any reason, take half my stuff and give me financial ruin? Getting married is playing Russian Roulette with half the chambers loaded. Do you feel lucky?

      December 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • fall of humanity and economy...

      Well, I don't know about you, I would like to have offsprings. Anyone thinks too many people is a bad thing should act as one's belief sooner rather than later.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • fall of humanity and economy...

      Marriage is more than just a religion, it is a tradition that most of the world have shared. The problems is like some people have pointed out, our society today produced too many people unsuited for marriage, because they act like immatures. People must realize that marriage is not only about me, but it is about us. But sadly our society has becoming a me or I society and not about us. The word Love has long lost it's true meaning to many people.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. alimonyjones

    Children deserve two committed parents. Even an alligator has enough sense to make a nest before she has young.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lukewarm

      You don't have to be married to have two committed parents. And you don't have to be married to cohabitate under the same roof. In my mind all marriage is an excuse to have a really expensive "Look at me" party. I can just as easily make a verbal commitment and vow/promise to my beloved to be with them forever. I don't need to pay for a license so the Gov't can force me to stay with them.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • PhillyRN

      Luke studies show alimony is right - kids do better who live with married parents. Kids who've got divorced parents do better than the kids whose parents have never been married. This is all data compiled by HHS.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
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