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. ann

    My only problem with people who don't want marriage is that some of them will partner up with someone who does want marriage and then hem and haw back and forth stringing the other person along and wasting time and not being honest about their total and utter lack of interest in marriage. If they could just pick someone else who also doesn't want marriage then that would be the best.

    Personally for me, I chose someone who also definitely wanted marriage like me and we have both found marriage to be even better than we thought it would be. But that is our personal choice. Is someone else doesn't choose that, that is their business.

    Also as far as talk about guys going through the ringer in divorce.. Get a Prenup! Or marry a woman who already makes more than you do (that's what my hubby did)

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

      The prob is – women generally tend to marry up; not down. Also, the prenups don't always hold.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbie

      RT, men are too afraid to marry women who are more successful than they are because most men have a need to dominate their woman. It makes them feel better about themselves. Smart, successful women scare the crap out of men. Men want young, thin, gorgeous, stupid women who they can bang and brag about to their friends and not have problems dominating her. Yep, that's what men like.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I will get married when I find a rich old woman.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Find me a woman who isn't offended by my sensible desire to have a prenup. Seems to them it means I must not love them or must not truly be committed because I'm "leaving myself a way out".

      December 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      James- You have now met one. Nice to make your virtual acquaintance.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      Yep, men like to moan about "don't get married, she'll leave and take everything you have, blah, blah, blah", yet when they marry someone with substantially less earning power, this is exactly what they accept for themselves. Here's a novel idea: marry someone who makes the kind of money you make. Problem solved. Don't buy flank steak, and then complain that it's too tough.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Boe Bud

    We Americans are so lost. All we care about now is baseball, beer, booze, and f**ing and than we wonder how come China, India and other countries are stealing our jobs. Thanks to MTV and Reality shows. Our morals had become corrupt and hence our work ethics and commitments.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry

      People have been griping about this years before MTV and reality TV.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. joanne

    I had a single friend who is in a 10 year relationship ask me, 'Why get married?' I thought the answer was obvious, but I for those 35 and under may be unclear on this since so many come from divorced parents. My response was religion and/or family. If you're not into either of those things, you shouldn't get married. Marriage is accepting your partner as family; you will bring two extended families together, and are possibly creating a family. Making it official implies a gravity of the relationship – with moral, legal, religious responsibilities. Boyfriends and girlfriends are friends, they are not family, and by design relieves responsibility to each other, whether or not you have kids. It's a cultural shift that favors individuals as the burden of responsibility to a partnership is not appealing, especially when so many were raised in a household where the partnership seemed unbalanced.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RT

    Look at the lady giving it a feminist spin in the article. Hilarious.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Doesn't look like much of a "spin" to me. Looks pretty close to reality. Sorry you think that things haven't changed for the last 50 years.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Yes, how horrible the world must be if, goodness forbid, women were culturally equal.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Women don't want to be equal. They want to have their cake and eat it too. All the perks of both genders without the responsibilities.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AmericanWomenStink

    Also after a certain age most womens looks begin to drastically fade. They age like too old milk.

    Women are likes cars, it's better to lease one than to commit long term to one. After you drive it off the lot it loses value instantly. At 50,000 miles you realize that its getting older and will never be the same (pregnancy), and at 100,000 miles if it hasn't already failed and aesthetics have faded away, it gets on your last nerve with its incessant maintenance and problems (menopause).

    December 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. gung hoe

    My my my imagine this article being on here today the day that Ive decided to call it quits with my wife.How unusual is that!

    December 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmericanWomenStink

      Welcome back to the free and good life friend. Congratulations!

      December 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    People mimic what they grow up around. My parents have been married for 38 years, my inlaws have been married for 35 years and my wife and I have been together for 15 years. We've made it through stuff that other people would have divorced over. When you take out divorce as an option, you try harder.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim J

    Marriage ruins everything.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Maggie

    I married at age 26 to my boyfriend of 6.5 years. I knew we weren't "too young" to be getting married. We had even bought a home 4 years ago. However in a way I sorta felt too young because most of my friends were not married, nor in a serious relationship. So I can definitely relate to this picture. My husband and I want a big family but honestly I don't want to start having kids yet!

    December 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Maggie

    And I'm really happy to be married!! I hope the tradition doesn't die. It's a beautiful one!!!! I understand that now I'm married. I didn't want to do it at first. I didn't see the point..... Now I get it.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Did you hubby cheat?

      December 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maggie

      No he didn't .. hasn't haha

      December 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    The family unit in America is broken. We all suffer because of it but the kids are the ones who suffer the most and its a really sad situation whats going on here. Kids having to go back and forth between families and houses. Having to miss a holiday with their mother or father. Seeing their parents date different people. "The kids are alright" is a joke of a saying these days. I've seen the kids and they are not alright.

    The line about men asking women to be superwomen is basically the bulk of the problem. Marriage is no longer about dependency and equality of roles. Women may be taking control of their lives but losing control of their kids lives. When she said somethings gotta give she was referring to the relationships but really what is breaking is stability for children.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • joanne

      The misunderstanding that one parent should be wholly responsible for the kids is the root of the suffering.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Aezel

    Well, marriage is society vs. instinct. For millions of years life on this planet evolved to go screw everything in sight to improve survival chances. This includes humans. I love my wife and would never cheat on her, but that is my brain talking, knowing that in the long run that is what's best for me. My hormones on the other hand tell me get busy every time I see someone I'm physically attracted to.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • instinct is not always right

      We spay and neuter feral cats in big cities and the data are overwhelmingly in! Neutered males live far, far longer and better lives because they are no longer compelled to constantly look for females in estrus and they are no longer CONSTANTLY fighting with other males. Spayed females enjoy similar benefits. Lesson here? Stick with your partner because roaming for rumps buys you much, much more trouble than it's worth. You can bang your wife whenever you want and that's better than STDs and bad social encounters. Your body tells you to eat and entire pizza followed by ice cream. Your body does not know best.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Not everyone can "bang their wife" whenever they want. My married friends all joke that marriage is the quickest way to stop getting laid.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    It's just a cultural change, as the author has somewhat led to. It's not something that should be looked upon as a positive or negative that marriage rates have gone down. I think these numbers vary greatly across the US too. I used to live in the Midwest where people seemed to get married at a much earlier than those on the East Coast. This has somewhat to do with jobs, buying a home, etc. It also simply involves meeting the right person. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that some people still live in a closed box with the mentality that if a person reaches a certain age and they're not married, that somehow something is wrong with them. It's all about personal choice and knowing that you've met the right person.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ghittsum

    How is Natasha Medina, a single woman in Los Angeles and founder of Medina Muze Management, a firm that represents production artists, an authority on marriage? Other than being a close contact of the Journalist Craig Johnson; how did she get to be quoted in this biased feature on declining marriage?

    Ok, so marriage is not cool in the US. Fine! Don't get married. No one is forcing you to do something you don't want to do. But taking pie shots at men at the same time has nothing to do with failing marriage. Maybe some men think their spouse should fit the criteria of superwoman, and at the same time maybe some men have cake walk jobs and do nothing at home. Not this guy!

    I would gladly switch with my wife and take care of the home. We, together, made the decision to keep her home for our infant son upon his birth. I bust my butt week after week, and come home and still pitch in. When she returns to her career, we will make adjustments again and figure out how to maintain our household.

    Marriage doesn't work for people who don't want to make it work, and those who don't want to get married shouldn't! When you've grown up and can find someone who is committed to a lifetime of togetherness, perhaps your marriage will be successful.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Samuel

    We all need to be honest enough to understand that the devaluing of marriage is actually the devaluing of women. If you think hard enough about the subject you will realize this.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
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