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U.S. marriage demographics have changed a lot

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2018 | Divorce

What do these societal shifts say about the future of marriage?

Marriage is still the norm in America, still an important institution. But it is definitely changing.

For example, people are staying single longer before they marry. Interracial and interfaith marriages have become more common as old taboos fade. Same-sex couples are embracing marriage while fewer heterosexual couples are tying the knot. 

 U.S. marriage by the numbers: some notable trends

The Pew Research Center has released a comprehensive snapshot of the state of marriage in America, based on census data, its own surveys, and other polls and longitudinal studies. The findings put hard numbers on some known trends and reveal other noteworthy and even surprising shifts in the marital institution.

  • We are marrying later – The median age for first marriages is 29 for men and 27 for women, the highest average ever. Enjoying the single life? Getting financially stable? Waiting for the right person?
  • Marriage has a growing education gap – In 1990, roughly two-thirds of all Americans over age 25 were married. That still holds true for those with college degrees (65 percent), but for those with a high school education or less the marriage rate has plunged to 50 percent.
  • Cohabitation is more common – There were 18 million Americans living with an unmarried partner in 2016, an increase of about 30 percent from a decade earlier. Half of those unmarried couples are Millennials, but cohabitation is rising fastest among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
  • Remarriage is more common – Among all weddings these days, 60 percent involve two people marrying for the first time, 20 percent involve one spouse who was married before, and 20 percent involve both spouses remarrying. Men are more likely to marry a second time – and to jump back in sooner.
  • Intermarriage is more common – In 1967 (the year the last miscegenation law was struck down), only 3 percent of U.S. newlyweds married someone of a different race or ethnicity. Fifty years later, about 1 in 6 weddings are intermarriages. Asians and Hispanics are most likely to marry someone of a different background. Whites are least likely.
  • Same-sex marriage is more common and more accepted – In 2009, half of Americans still opposed same-sex marriage. As of 2017, 62 percent support it and only 32 percent oppose. Since legalization, 61 percent of all same-sex couples who live together are married.
  • Interfaith marriages are more common – Before 1960, the interfaith marriage taboo was stronger; only 20 percent of people married outside their religion. Of people married since 2010, nearly 40 percent are married to someone who is a different faith or who has no religious affiliation.
  • Interpolitical marriages not so much – Political affiliation is a stronger tie (or greater barrier) than religion. Among married Republicans and Democrats, 77 percent are in the same party as their spouse. Being in the “wrong” political party is also one of the biggest dealbreakers on online dating sites.

What will these trends mean for divorce and family law?

The changing dynamics of marriage also change the dynamics of divorce. For instance, the legalization of same-sex marriage naturally has produced unique legal issues in child custody, property division and alimony, especially for those who were living together before it was legal to marry. The trend toward cohabitation may create corresponding shifts in family court matters such as paternity, shared custody and child support. Just as people are getting married later, we are seeing more people divorcing later in life (even after 30 or 40 years of marriage), with their own unique goals and legal considerations.

Source: 8 Facts About Love And Marriage (Pew Research)