Record Share of Americans Have Never Married
As Values, Economics and Gender Patterns Change
After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high. In 2012, one-in-five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. In 1960, only about one-in-ten adults (9%) in that age range had never been married.1 Men are more likely than women to have never been married (23% vs. 17% in 2012). And this gender gap has widened since 1960, when 10% of men ages 25 and older and 8% of women of the same age had never married.
The dramatic rise in the share of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap are related to a variety of factors. Adults are marrying later in life, and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.2 About a quarter (24%) of never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 are living with a partner, according to Pew Research analysis of Current Population Survey data.3
In addition, shifting public attitudes, hard economic times and changing demographic patterns may all be contributing to the rising share of never-married adults.
This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups but has been more pronounced among blacks. Fully 36% of blacks ages 25 and older had never been married in 2012, up from 9% in 1960. For whites and Hispanics, the share of never-married adults has roughly doubled over that same period. In 2012, 16% of whites and 26% of Hispanics had never been married.
Recent survey data from the Pew Research Center finds a public that is deeply divided over the role marriage plays in society. Survey respondents were asked which of the following statements came closer to their own views: Society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, or society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children. Some 46% of adults chose the first statement, while 50% chose the second.4
Opinions on this issue differ sharply by age—with young adults much more likely than older adults to say society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children. Fully two-thirds of those ages 18 to 29 (67%) express this viewpoint, as do 53% of those ages 30 to 49. Among those ages 50 and older, most (55%) say society is better off if people make it a priority to get married and have children.
Despite these mixed views about the role of marriage in society, most Americans (68%) continue to believe it is important for couples to marry if they plan to spend the rest of their lives together. Roughly half of all adults (47%) believe that this is very important, and an additional 21% consider it somewhat important.
While blacks are more likely than whites to have never been married (and less likely to be currently married), a much higher share of blacks (58%) than whites (44%) say that it’s very important for a couple to marry if they plan to spend their lives together.
What Never-Married Adults Are Looking For in a (Potential) Spouse
A new Pew Research survey finds that about half of all never-married adults (53%) say they would like to marry eventually. This share is down somewhat from 2010, when 61% of never-married adults said they would like to marry someday. Roughly one-third of today’s never-married adults (32%) say they are not sure if they would like to get married, while 13% say they do not want to marry.5
But the survey also finds that, among the never married, men and women are looking for distinctly different qualities in a potential mate. Never-married women place a great deal of importance on finding someone who has a steady job—fully 78% say this would be very important to them in choosing a spouse or partner. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job.
read more at Pew Research : http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/