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In , one-in-five adults ages 25 and older about 42 million people had never been married, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. The dramatic rise in the share of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap are related to a variety of factors. Adults are marrying later in life, and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups but has been more pronounced among blacks. For whites, the share of never-married adults has doubled over that same period. Recent survey data from the Pew Research Center finds a public that is deeply divided over the role marriage plays in society. Survey respondents were asked which of the following statements came closer to their own views: Society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, or society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job. Never-married adults—whether male or female—place a much lower priority on finding a partner who shares their moral and religious beliefs, has a similar educational pedigree or comes from the same racial or ethnic background. Among those who have never been married but say they may eventually like to wed, three-in-ten say the main reason they are not married is that they have not found someone who has what they are looking for in a spouse. There are no significant differences between never-married men and women in this regard. Never-Married Adults Face Changing Economic Realities As the share of never-married adults has climbed, the economic circumstances faced by both men and women have changed considerably. Labor force participation among men—particularly young men—has fallen significantly over the past several decades. And among young men who are employed, wages have fallen over the past few decades. Over the same period, the wage gap between men and women has narrowed. However, the changes in the labor market have contributed to a shrinking pool of available employed young men. Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34, the number of employed men per women dropped from in to 91 in , despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers. Five decades ago, never-married young women had a much larger pool of potential spouses from which to choose. It is important to note that never-married young adults are not necessarily restricting their choice of a potential spouse to those who have never been married, nor are they limited to a spouse within their age group. Gender, Education and Marriage The relationship between education and marital status has changed considerably over time, and the patterns among men and women have reversed. In , men of various education levels were about equally likely to have never been married. Today, there is considerable disparity in the shares of never-married men along educational lines. For women, the opposite trend has occurred. These educational gaps have closed over time, and today women of different educational backgrounds are almost equally likely to have never been married. Over this same period, women have made significant gains in higher education. The number of young women attending college has grown steadily, and by the mids, women began to outpace men in college enrollment and college completion rates. The changing gender patterns in the link between education and marital status have contributed to an educational mismatch between never-married men and women. Today, never-married women ages 25 and older are more educated overall than never-married men: In , never-married men and women were much more similar in terms of their educational attainment. Among Hispanics and Asian Americans, whose numbers have swelled in recent decades due to a large influx of immigrants, the share of adults who have never married also has increased. In most racial and ethnic groups, men are more likely than women to have never been married. The major exception is among blacks. Among whites, Hispanics and Asians, men are more likely than women to have never been married, and the gender gap among whites and Hispanics has widened in recent decades. Looking at cohorts of young adults ages 25 to 34 going back to , there has been a steady increase since in the share that remains never married by the time the cohort reaches ages 45 to The next cohort starting in followed a similar trajectory. However, each new cohort of young adults since then has had a higher share of never-married members than the cohort that came before it. That would be the highest share in modern history. While it is certainly true that some adults marry for the first time after the age of 54, the chances of this occurring are relatively small. In , there were 71 first-time newlyweds for every 1, never-married adults ages 25 to The remainder of this report explores the various factors that may be contributing to the rising share of never-married adults and the changing characteristics of that population. Chapter 1 of the report is based on a new Pew Research survey of 2, adults and looks at public views on marriage as well as the attitudes of never-married adults themselves, including reasons that they are not married and qualities they are looking for in a potential spouse or partner. Chapter 2 presents trends in the share of never-married Americans by gender, age and cohort. Chapter 3 explores the overall marriage market for all unmarried adults. Chapter 4 focuses on never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 and explores the marriage market for this age group. Finally, Chapter 5 looks at the demographic profile of never-married Americans over time as well as in comparison to their married peers. Other key findings For young adults who want to get married, financial security is a significant hurdle. Previously married adults show less interest in marriage than do never-married adults. There is a large gender gap on this question. Never-married and previously married adults have different demographic profiles. Compared with never-married adults, previously married adults are much older and somewhat less educated. In , among those who were ages 25 and older, the median age of previously married adults was 58, while the median age for never-married adults was In addition, among those ages 25 to 64, men outnumber women by a large margin among never-married adults men for every women , but men are outnumbered by women among previously married adults 71 men for every women. Among young, never-married blacks, women outnumber men. For blacks ages 25 to 34, there are 92 never-married men for every never-married women. When employment status is taken into consideration, there are 51 employed young black men for every young black women. Among never-married white, Hispanic and Asian American young adults, the ratio of employed men to women is roughly equal— men for every women. Several decades ago, there was a surplus of young employed men among whites, and for every young black women, there were nearly 90 employed black men. Among never-married young adults with post-graduate degrees, women outnumber men by a large margin. There are 77 never-married men ages 25 to 34 with post-graduate degrees for every women with similar educational credentials. Cohabitation in the U. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, among women who first cohabited at age 25 to 29, their premarital cohabitation relationship typically lasted about a year and a half 17 months. Previous survey findings suggest that 3. As of September , same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and Washington, D. Public Opinion Survey data: The Pew Research survey was conducted May and May June 1, , with a nationally representative sample of 2, adults ages 18 and older, including adults who have never been married. A total of 1, interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 1, with those contacted on their cellular phones. Data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the United States. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2. Unless otherwise noted, all demographic analyses in this report are based on Decennial Censuses , , , , and and the American Community Surveys , , The American Community Survey is a household survey developed by the U. Census Bureau to replace the long form of the decennial census program. It is collected throughout the year using mailed questionnaires, telephone interviews and visits from Census Bureau field representatives to about 3 million household addresses annually. Analyses of unmarried Americans are based on adults ages 25 and older for consistency in comparison over time. Analyses of young adults focus on those ages 25 to Projections about the share of young adults remaining never married by and are based on the share of the previous cohort of never-married adults at the same age, assuming the same rate continues. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT adults are included but are not analyzed separately. All estimates have been weighted to reflect the actual population. Schroeder and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: University of Minnesota, The meaning of that term is just as it sounds—adults who have never been married. They are part of a broader universe of adults who are not currently married. All references to whites, blacks and Asians are to the non-Hispanic components of those populations. Asians also include Pacific Islanders. Hispanics are of any race. Much of this analysis is based on adults ages 25 and older. Adults in this age group are closer to the median age of first marriage, and most have completed their formal education. Census Bureau table MS For more information about cohabitation, see Box 1. Rates, Characteristics Vary by Race and Gender. Therefore, some newlyweds may have married in , depending on the month in which they were surveyed in the ACS.
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