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. Obediah

    WOW!...marriage cant be this awful??...there is still a very good percentage of married couples out there and a lot of them are happy...thanks God for that!

    December 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Jesus said that anyone who remarries commits adultery. There sure are a lot of Christian adulterers out there.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • ann

      This is a reflection on the economy. Single parents with lower incomes can get government benefits even though there may be 2 income producers in the household. People are finding ways to survive in this economy and not getting married is just a side effect. sad but true

      December 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • hez316

      @observer Depends on how you interpret I Cor 7:15.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      "@observer Depends on how you interpret I Cor 7:15."

      Jesus was very straightforward. No interpretation problem. Anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery unless the previous spouse already commited adultery. Very simple and easy to "interpret".

      December 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beau

      @Observer It sounds like a good point you are making, But I would encourage you to study more into that verse and particularly the verses around it. Commentaries on individual books of the Bible can be very helpful.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sugar

      I am a middle aged woman. Half of the women I know tell me that they wish they were on their own, that "if something's happens to Bob, I won't get married again." I have made a mental note over the decades that if women can make it on their own financially, they are a bit less likely to jump into the marriage hoop. If you're married mostly because you need someone to help you pay the bills, that's not marriage, that's just a roommate.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Omaha

      Interesting, I believe the bible verse you refer to is Mathew 19:9. 1st Corinthians was written by Paul so really has nothing to do with what Jesus said.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer


      Yes, Paul in the New Testament said that men and women shouldn't have physical relations, but could marry if they couldn't control their lust.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. theprophet556

    I blame obama

    December 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Of course you would

      December 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ clearmind:
    Well, I was writing something like what you said about sharing, and you posted while I was writing.
    I know what this means to you.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. t man

    America has changed from those days. It used to be about families. Honor and integrity in the homes. Its so easy now for the parent to leave and go start a new life without looking back or have kids and a home with a babys mom or dad and not be married. Thats socially acceptable now. It was a rare thing of people getting divorced back in the 60s and earlier. If a person gets married there are a few reasons why they should be able to get divorced i think like abuse and other harmful situautions. If people thought through their decisions before they get married then divorces wouldnt happen. Stop crying and live with your decision but if somebody doesnt want to get married then let them be and dont pressure them to do one or the other. Think for yourself people.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • fall of humanity and economy...

      Good job! I try to come up with some reasons please correctly me if I am wrong. Firstly, I think people had too many relationships before they get married, so they are kinda used to break promises if there is a slight discomfort. Secondly, people are becoming less mature, nowadays it is socially acceptable to be immatures and not to care about others. Thirdly, nowdays people think the one who breaks up are making a wiser decision, people no longer give time to work things out, and no longer to make the effort, people just break up if there is any kind of stress just like before they are married...

      December 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • hez316

      fall of humanity and economy... Not sure I agree with having too many relationships makes it easier to divorce. I've seen too many who married their first highschool/college sweetheart and it didn't work out.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sugar

      I am so grateful that I live in a society that allows me to be a single woman who doesn't have to get married or have children to be accepted. I love living alone. Period. I always have and I hope that I always can.... when I can't live alone or take care of myself, pay my own bills, entertain myself, then it's time to carry me out in a box and be done with me.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Judge Dredd

    This is all the feminist movement fault. I also blame lawyers and courts for rewarding so much to women who do nothing to help marriage and only want to destroy it. Where else can you not work for a few years and yet still get paid...marriage!

    December 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubsy

      It's a horrible deal for a man.You're right on the money!

      December 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not So Gullible

      the problem is that the government is too involved in marriage. if there weren't so many contracts it wouldn't be such a big deal.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Of course, blame everyone. Why blame anyone for this?
      People just don't want to get married, what's so wrong with that?

      December 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    Stunning. In two pages of comments, less than a handful appear to be somewhat positive about marriage, while all the rest take on the typical cynical standpoints. Get married when it's the right time and the right person, and accept the responsibilities that come with it. Marriage, if done right, can be a beautiful thing. In marriage, it's not about 'me' or 'her.' It's about 'us.' Accept that first and foremost, and let it grow from there.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Some of us have been there, done that, or come extremely close. When we see our friends, many of whom seem to have had great marriages suddenly fall apart when their wives suddenly decide they aren't happy, it makes it a lot harder to take the plunge. I agree that when it works, it's great, but fully half the time it doesn't work. If 50% of the time you got in a car to drive somewhere led to a horrible accident with months of recovery, emotional scars and enormous bills, would you still hop in?

      December 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JOe

    I will get married only if I can pay less taxes.
    I am cool with being single now.
    What's point for getting married anyway?

    December 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • hez316

      Good question: "What is the point of getting married, anyway?" Marriage is a commitment which shouldn't be entered in to in a nonchalant manner. There are some legal benefits for getting married but unless you want to commit to the person permanently, I agree, don't get married.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sugar

      Hey, JOe, I'm a woman.... been single all of my life and I LOVE IT. .... I let the other women have the babies and put up with the men. When I want to have a "date" , I call one of my single male friends and out we go.... I feel it's far more romantic to keep separate dwellings and a lot less fighting with separate checkbooks.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. clearmind

    @Joey good to know us `old` guys hang together! I am with you 100% nothing like sharing your life with a good woman. I hope you are feeling better, said some prayers for you. Marriage isnt always perfect, in fact there are times when perfect is the last word to describe it, but dang the good is so good. Marc Broussard did a song, When its good its good, when its bad it aint that bad.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sunburn

    Sad ... something tells me that this isn't the way they imagined life when they got married ... how is it that everyone’s imaginary worlds got so screwed up?

    December 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ QS:
    I want you to know that I absolutely support your being able to marry your gay partner if you want to do that.
    I hope that you will have long and happy lives together, married or not.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TAK

    Despite what the conservatives and the self-described happily married (ie liars) would say, this is good news indeed. Maybe Americans are finally realizing this anachronistic, patriarchical religious ritual is outdated.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Not So Gullible

    who can afford it?!

    December 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    As hez316 said, sometimes the high-school-sweetheart thing doesn't work out.
    I was sure I'd marry the girl in high school. After we both married other people, we got together and had wonderful times as friends.
    I think it would have been a disaster.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Not So Gullible

    we need to take government out of marriage, let the partners agree on what they want to share and keep to themselves without contracts.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Myperspective

    Problems are an integral part of life. It exists with our brothers and sisters, parents, co-workers, and ofcourse our spouses. People should accept what they are willing to tolorate from their partners before gettings married. The mistake most people make is they create this unrealistic fantasy about a partner and use that as an expectation, a yard stick. When reality hits, then they cant cope and opt out for divorce.

    Everyones situation is different, and I know there are extremes where divorce becomes inevitable. But for the most part, marraige is a good thing especially if one is Godly or religious. I can only speak for the people who believe in God because I'm religious....when problems arise in marraige, and they will, guaranteed, pray and fast about it and read what God's books says about resolving marital issues.

    Oh by the way, speaking of reading about divine predictions in the Bible and Quran, its the sign of the end times. These books had predicted that these occurences and its related chanllenges will eventually present itself in this manner....go figure!

    December 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
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