In fact, just more than half of adults over age 18 are married — a significant drop from the turn of the century and a huge difference from the percentage from 50 years ago.
“In the 1950s, if you weren’t married, people thought you were mentally ill,” Andrew J. Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist who studies families, told The Washington Post. “Marriage was mandatory. Now it’s culturally optional.”
According to an analysis of census statistics released by the Pew Research Center on Dec. 14, the rate of adults taking the plunge is at 51 percent — which is 6 percentage points lower than it was in 2000 and a whopping 21 percent lower than it was in 1960.
The report also showed that new marriages in the United States dropped by 5 percent between 2009 and 2010.
The most startling change is with adults aged 18 to 29. In that demographic, 59 percent were married in 1960, while a mere 20 percent are married today.
“They see it as an obsolete social environment,” said D’Vera Cohn, a Pew researcher who co-wrote the analysis. “People say they want to get married, but Americans are much less likely to actually be married than in the past.”
Washington, D.C., lawyer and lobbyist Kate Schorr said she doesn’t know anyone who doesn’t want to get married someday.
“All of us want to meet that special person and marry,” the 30-year-old said, “but there’s no real rush to do that. Especially in the career-driven society we have.”
This doesn’t mean, however, that co-habitation is passé. There were 7.5 million couples living together last year, a 13-percent increase from the year before, according to Census Bureau demographer Rose Kreider.
Chances are, if they are college graduates, they will be married someday: 64 percent of those with college degrees were married last year. By contrast, less than 50 percent of high school grads exchanged vows.
About four out of 10 American adults feel the idea of marriage is becoming obsolete. Fewer than three of 10 adults felt that way in the 1970s.
This is not just a U.S. phenomenon, according to the report.
“The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad,” the report said.
—JOE GREENE, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM