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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ clearmind:
    Thank you for the prayers.
    I am better and starting to work again. I have to build up strength now.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eddie

    Marriage should be abolished. Then the abuses would stop. Live with who you like. Have kids or don't. This is all we need.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKA

      So, Eddie, are you the type to love 'em and leave' em...women and the children you bring into the world? From my perspective as a wonder we have so many messed up children in our country, many of whom need mental health services, and do not have both positive male and female role models.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Layne

      Great, another fanatic wanting to force the rest of us to conform to his personal views.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert Riccota

      Way to go, eddie.
      Americans have become like their "best friends", the dogs. Mate with whoever who u want , anywhere, on the streets...... price of "freedom", i guess

      December 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iluvatar

      @AKA: Totally agree. Marraige is one of the building blocks of our society.
      @Lan: You say he's forcing his opnion... isn't it an OPNION to say that he's forcing his opinion? Why then, should we trust YOUR opinio over his? Does that make you an opinion forcer? And, this section is made for voicing your opnion, so get over it, man. 🙂
      @Eddie: What are we, dogs?

      December 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marc

    If ya allowed gays to get married that number would go up!

    December 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      That's just your GUESS. No real reason to think that gay marriages will be any more or less successful than hetero marriages.

      Gay mariage is one way to reduce promiscuity that spreads AIDS. Thanks for the reminder.

      December 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • freedom44

      Gays don't know how good they have it. I think the gov't discriminates against single people not just give privileges to married couples.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnjon

      My partner of 21 years and I would marry if we could. It's something we've longed for, for may years. Perhaps one day he'll "make an honest man" out of me. It sometimes makes me sad that we can't marry, but there's always hope.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      "Gays don't know how good they have it"

      Incredible nonsense. Get real.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      This has absolutely nothing to do with gay rights.

      The isue is this: More single mothers. That's bad. Wise up.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      I heard a funny quote once "I'm against gay marriage, I think gay men have already suffered enough."

      December 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pete

    Not A Surprise. That current trend will only accelerate.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ndf424

    The bible says that "Only through pride does conflict come."

    Also, it says in Genesis that God cursed man and woman in several ways. One of them was that the woman would always want to control her man, but that she would not be able to. Putting this into context of my own observations of others (thank God, not my own), I know that men CAN be controlled by women. So is the Bible wrong? I don't think so. You see, I've noticed that the women who succeed in backing their men into a corner until they become docile (gaining control), cheat on that husband. He's not longer attractive to her, so she immediately sets her eyes on "her new man". So, it remains true that women will never control their men because as soon as they accomplish it, they choose different man.

    So, for some practical help to the guys, accept that women will alwyas try to bully, demean, and otherwise dominate you – even if it's only in little tiny ways. Love them through it anyway, and poke fun at this behavior from time to time to keep it in check. Whatever you do, don't give in or she'll cheat on you. And along the way, make sure you're positively engaged in helping people around you. Women like that.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • anxietyjunkie

      ...Wow. Did you come up with that yourself, or did all those words just fall out randomly?

      December 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Is the Bible wrong? Yes. It supports inferiority for women.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin

    The American family is deteriorating due to women’s liberation.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBPlant

      So indeed, let's de-liberate women in the name of "The American family".

      December 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lanah

      Deteriorated because of women's lib? Hardly. I'm in my 20's and married and a huge feminist. But so is my husband (a feminist – but I really prefer the term egalitarian). Maybe it is the men that need to change as well. And who said being married is necessary? I did enjoy a lot of productivity when I was single. I bet there are also good consequences of people getting married later or not at all. I heard a stat that the divorce rate is dropping. Maybe because people are waiting and being more realistic about what marriage entails.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • men need to step up

      Kevin, if men would step up to the plate and take on half the household responsibilities while his working wife took the other half, households would not be deteriorating. Women are not going to do everything. 9-5 is no longer your job, just as it isn't ours. Don't re-chain the slaves, whip the master into a new shape.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      While I never quite got married, I did get very close to it once. I did most of the cooking, at least half the cleaning, about half the laundry and 100% of the house and car maintenance while pulling in 70% of the income. She still left out of the blue after meeting someone else and feeling that excitement of somebody new again. Biggest problem is people expect to feel those "butterflies" in their stomach forever and think they're not in love anymore when things settle down.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    I think gay marriage is the least of your problems. You people need to monitor your own bedrooms first.


    December 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tauna

    Wow... All this negativity about marriage... Could it have something to do with our culture today? I don't know. It does trouble me to see how women AND men are generalized in these comments. I, for one, could not imagine my life without my husband. He is my partner in all things. He is also a wonderful father to our two girls. I value our marriage on every level and resent many of the comments several of you have made. Each of you should look at the way you lead your lives and how you choose your partners. Yes, divorce laws are incredibly unfair. If it is something you are concerned about, talk to your local legislative bodies about making changes to it. Do NOT blame an entire gender because you have been in bad relationships.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AmericanWomenStink

    Western men are learning the truth about Western women. Once you marry them, they let themselves go and look like a grazing cow if you are lucky. Otherwise they look like a beached whale. Also the average American woman has dated over 24 men before she decides to settle down...Wow! Talk about a hot dog down a hallway. I guess some men like sloppy...25th's with multiple STD's.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • men need to step up

      Hey Stinky, how many women have you humped? Ever use protection? No, men like you never do. Also, watch out for your own spare tire, hairy back sans manscaping and skid marks in the duddy. You guys get just as gross. Don't complain if you're one of them.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JOe

    Marriage is good for lazy women with a lot of kids only.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Sugar:
    I understand why you think that way.
    Aren't you ever lonely for somebody really close?
    To whom do you go when terrible things happen?

    December 14, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    Does Poly marriages count? I'd love to find 2 women to get hitched with....

    December 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. clearmind

    This is sorta off topic but hey I have no one else to ask about it .... When women date a `serial dater` like George Clooney, NOT talking about him. Dont they care that the words he is saying to them he has said those same word to 10 other women, the way he kisses you, he has kisses 10 others etc There is nothing they (probably) havent said or done to others, why does that make you feel special to them.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. AGeek

    Well, when you watch the courts hand half of everything your buddy ever made to his ex, who hasn't worked a day in their life, then yeah, you look at marriage as a total losing proposition from the get-go. If the courts didn't hand over way too much to gold-diggers, then you'd have a very different outlook. Oh, yeah, forgot how much the attorneys get, too. By the time everyone is out of your pockets, you're lucky to have any pockets left to pick! Eff that. No thanks. No way, no how.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • responsibility

      Geeky, you may be in possession of only one side of that story. Every story has three sides: his, hers and the truth. What did he do to prompt the judge to award such wealth? I'm guessing he's got responsibility in there. Also, men and women who stay home to take care of kids and the household don't earn any money but they are certainly working and contributiong greatly to the family. Don't ever write off someone's contributions based on a dollar amount earned. That's extremely shallow.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      That was their choice to be in the relationship and stay home to raise kids rather than work, and if they leave, they shouldn't get to keep the perks. I can't quit my job, keep my benefits, and then sue for the money I could have earned working a higher paid job somewhere else.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Expertia

    Go back to basic, traditional moral marriage values, and we'll have fewer social and cultural problems and more happiness.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • responsibility

      Expertia, that is only true for the dominant partner, which was almost always the man prior to the 1980s. The plantation is certainly less profitable without slaves and now the master either has to do some work or -gasp!- pay the workers. Men need to step up and start doing more of the household work. We are all equals now and women will not stand being breadwinner, household manager and child raiser while the man just works his 9-5 and then expects to be served at home. Those days are over and women will never go back to slavery. Dudes, strap on some balls and start helping.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas Howard

      Traditional just means that that's the way it's been done in the past. At one point in history slavery was traditional, in certain places. Iraq has almost exclusively "tradional" marriages, and it's no utopia. Marriage doesn't have anything to do with the majority of the issues we have today in this country.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
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