We’re Not Putting Rings On It: U.S. Marriage Rate is at All-Time Low

December 15, 2011  |  

With so much stigma placed on single ladies–and men–it’s hard to believe only 51% of Americans over the age of 18 are married today, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center.

That number is the lowest in recorded history—down 7% from 2000 and 21% from 1960 when 72% of Americans were married. It’s expected that within just a few years, the societal norm will flip and married people will become the minority.

When you look at the economy, which is the biggest factor behind the decline, the trend makes sense. When the country was in a recession, wedded rates dropped 5% from 2009-2010, with the biggest decline—13%—seen among adults 18-24 years old. Between outsourcing, the overall increase in unemployment, and the decline of government and health benefits, it’s not surprising people are more cautious to jump the broom.

“This trend reflects the changing labor market that young adults face,” says Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. Single people “think that you shouldn’t get married until you’re positive that you can make a go of it financially.”

People still desire to have life partners, though, as the study found more couples are living together and having children without getting married. Cohabitation, living alone, and single parenthood have all grown more prevalent.

But what sounds a bit sour now to us now could be sweet in the long run, according to Clair Brown, an economics and public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley. She says sociological trends are often beneficial for the economy and people who stay in school longer and wait to have children get better jobs and have more mature relationships. That is definitely good news.

Has your desire to get married declined with the United States’ economy? Have you put off plans to get married until things get better financially? Do you think married people will eventually become the minority in the U.S.?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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