Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nobody gets married anymore

Barely half of all adults in the United States -- a record low -- are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements-including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood-have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

The Pew Research analysis also finds that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may or may not be related to the sour economy.

That last paragraph reminds me of a favorite conservative trope—espoused by National Review's Rick Lowry, among others—that poor people can not be poor if they get married, because married people tend not to be poor. But correlation isn't causation, of course, and I wonder if the declining marriage rates/rising poverty rates don't tell a different story: That there are a lot of people who simply don't feel like they have the economic resources to formally form a household and start a family.

1 comment:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

You may be right about that last bit, Joel. But my thought upon hearing this story this morning was to wonder whether nationally legalizing same-sex marriage would make a dent in these figures.

My second thought was "So what?" As in, "Should we really treat this as a crisis?" It's simply a fact. Marriage and family patterns fluctuate over the course of time.