- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The share of Americans who have never walked down the aisle has reached a record high — and may produce the largest group of lifelong singles in the nation’s history, the Pew Research Center says in a new report on marriage trends in the United States.

About one in five U.S. adults aged 25 and older, or about 42 million people, have never tied the knot with anyone, said the report released Wednesday.

Marriage aspirations remain strong: A recent survey of some 2,000 adults found that, among the never-marrieds, a majority (53 percent) want to marry, compared with 13 percent who never plan to wed and 32 percent who aren’t sure.

Also, most Americans marry eventually: In 2012, only 7 percent of people aged 64 or older hadn’t married at least once, wrote lead author Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew.

But if current marriage trends continue, the United States could be heading for “the lowest marriage rate in modern history,” the report warned.

According to Pew Research projections, based on census data, “when today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record-high share (25 percent) is likely to have never married,” it said.

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This is because first-time marriages become increasingly rare as people age, and if a person is not married by midlife, he or she might never do so.

“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,” Ms. Parker and her co-authors wrote, citing federal data showing that only 7 per 1,000 never-married people aged 55 and older got married in 2012.

The new Pew report on marriage doesn’t take policy positions and doesn’t try to explain all the trends it finds for Americans who have never married or are currently “unmarried,” which includes those who are divorced, separated, widowed and cohabiting. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults were included in the study, but not analyzed separately, researchers said.

A major focus of the report was Americans in their prime marrying ages of 25 to 34.

The median age of first marriage in the United States has steadily risen, up from 23 for men and 20 for women in 1960 to 29 for men and 27 for women today.

As a result, the marriage landscape is virtually opposite of what it once was: In 1960, about 28 percent of men and 13 percent of women had not been married by the time they reached their 25th birthday.

Today, a big majority of U.S. 25-year-olds — 78 percent of men and 67 percent of women — have not taken that important step.

Not all of today’s never-married 25-to-34-year-olds are sleeping alone: Some 24 percent cohabit with a romantic partner.

This age group is also quite marriage-minded: Sixty-one percent said they want to marry, compared with 4 percent who don’t plan to wed and about 35 percent who aren’t sure.

When people were asked why they aren’t married, the most common reason was because of inadequate financial preparation (34 percent), followed by not finding the right person to marry (29 percent) and simply not feeling ready to settle down (13 percent).

The report found that there were plenty of men per woman in the never-married 25-34 age group — 126 men to 100 women — but the numbers shifted significantly when employment and education were factored in.

For instance, for every 100 women in the never-married 25-34 age group, there were only 91 men in that group who were employed, a stark difference from 1960 when there were 139 employed men to 100 women in the never-married 25-34 age group.

Academically, data for this cohort showed that for every 100 women with a bachelor’s degree there were 102 men with similar degrees. But only 88 of those 102 male college graduates also had a job, the report noted.

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