People today are remaining unmarried for much longer than they ever have in the past.
A recent analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center, based on 2021 data from the Census Bureau, found that a record number of people who are at least 40 years old haven’t been married.
According to the analysis, one-quarter of all Americans who are 40 years old have never been married yet. That’s a “significant increase” from the 20% who had never been married back in 2010.
Go back even further, and you’ll see the stark difference in how people are approaching life today. In 1980, only 6% of all 40-year-olds had never been married before.
The number has continually increased since that time.
In addition, the study found that 78% of the 40-year-olds who had never been married also didn’t live with a “romantic partner.” One of Pew’s senior researchers, Richard Fry, said in response to the analysis:
“In all prior generations of American adults, less than one in five adults had not tried marriage by age of 40.”
The breakdown by gender wasn’t too tilted one way or the other, with 22% of women and 28% of men having never been married at the age of 40. The researchers say this shows that there is a larger general trend of people either delaying marriage or forgoing it altogether.
This analysis shows results that were similar to a report issued by the National Marriage Project earlier this year, which showed that the median marriage age has increased over the last 50 years.
The median age for marriage among men was 23 in 1970, but that had increased all the way to 30 years old by 2021.
Pew’s research found that Black 40-year-olds were the most likely cohort to have never been married, with 46% of black people in the age group never being married. That’s compared to 27% of Hispanics, 20% of white people and 17% of Asians.
It also found that those “without a four-year college degree were more likely to have never married than those who had completed at least a bachelor’s degree.”
Of those who had a high school degree, 33% had never been married, compared to 26% who had completed at least some college and 18% who had at least a Bachelor’s degree.
The Census Bureau data showed that about one-quarter of people who weren’t married by the age of 40 ended up getting married by the age of 60. This would suggest that a large majority of the people who aren’t married by the age of 40 will never end up getting married.
Fry spoke to CNN and said that they analyzed the data at 40 years old because that’s when people “take stock of their lives at the start of a new decade of life.”
Marriage and fertility are very often related as well, he said, with many women wanting to have children within marriage. As he explained:
“Since fertility wanes after the age of 40, 40 is an appropriate age to document marriage outcomes.”