Many Not Marrying and Never Will


“I Do” is rapidly becoming “I Don’t” in America. While George Clooney, Brad Pitt and others surprise fans and take a second walk down the aisle, research shows the more adults are not marrying and they never will.

Not getting married used to mean someone did not find a mate or was gay. Now, gays are able to marry in many states and countries, but more adults, even those that are consciously coupled, are choosing to avoid the legal license.

Twenty percent of Americans who are 25 or older had never been married, according to Census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. That is twice the amount 50 years before. For blacks age 25 and older, the never married rate is 36 percent; it was 9 percent in 1960. Nationally, only a small majority (53 percent) of American adults who never married even want to wed eventually and another 32 percent were not sure, per a Pew survey of 2,000 adults conducted this spring.

This societal change could be attributed to the sexual revolution, decline of religion and acceptance of out-of-wedlock children as a common thing. But another change could be more impactful – the idea of financial security as a prerequisite for marrying is evaporating. In its survey, Pew found that nearly a third of those who had never wed but still wanted to felt they were not financially ready.

The economy and weak job prospects are impacting the idea of wedded bliss. In recent years, unemployment or underemployment has hit hard. People want to know they are financially stable, or at least employed, before marrying. Incomes are threatened; housing and other costs (such as raising children) have skyrocketed; and add any student loans to the heap, it paints a dire picture.

Young women who gather Carrie Bradshaw-style with pals and complain there is a shortage of good men are actually right. According to the Pew survey report, which is based on 2012 data, 78 percent of never-married women seeking a spouse look for one who has a steady job and sustainable income. But the job market has helped shrink the numbers of available employed males. For men ages 25-34, median hourly wages have reportedly declined 20 percent since 1980 in real dollars adjusted for inflation. In addition, the ratio of employed men aged 25 to 34 per 100 women has declined. It was 139:100 in 1960 and now is 91:100. Ouch! That means that if every nonmarried young woman sought a mate, 9 percent would fail because there are not enough.

Another factor affecting the seismic shift in attitudes toward marriage is educational disparity. Marriage rates and stability are higher for those with college degrees than those who merely went to high school, whose marriages are more likely to fail. Men who did not finish high school are less likely to find a match than any other group. Nowadays, however, more women than more get degrees so never married women are likely to be college graduates or even have advanced degrees.

A final interesting bit from the survey is that women and men a looking for different qualities in a mate (other than looks or personality). Women, as noted above, want an employer, steady partner. Men who have never been wed, on the other hand, still hold to the old-fashioned goal of a partner who shares their ideas about raising children rather than someone who has a steady job. The odds are many of the highly educated women, like the undereducated men are not marrying and never will.

By Dyanne Weiss

Pew Research Center
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post

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