Forget the 1%. Maybe we should focus more on the 51%. That’s the percentage of U.S. adults that are currently married, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center looking at 2010 U.S. Census data. It’s a record low, down one percentage point from 2009 and well below the 1960 figure of 72%.
One number that has increased: the age at which people are starting to get married. The median age for first marriages hit 28.7 for men, and 26.5 for women, up about six years each over the past half-century. It’s unclear what exactly is causing the change. The weak economy might play some role, but Pew says there’s actually little research tying lower marriage rates to hard times. And while high divorce rates explain some of the long-term decline, the study says, those have leveled off in recent years. No matter the reason, if this trend continues, the share of unmarried adults will make up the majority of the population in just a few years as cohabitation, single parenthood and single-person households gain ground.
One of the biggest shifts comes among young-adult newlyweds. Fewer adults age 18-24 are getting married – 9% in 2010, compared with 45% in 1960 – possibly because more of them now are in college or just starting their careers.