Amount of First-Time Married Couples Historically Low - NBC Southern California

Amount of First-Time Married Couples Historically Low

For the first time married couples make up about only 51 percent of American households, according to U.S. Census Bureau data

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011)

    A declining number of people are finding nuptial bliss these days.

    "I think probably some people are not interested in making that sort of commitment legally," says Amber Rothwell.

    By reviewing U.S. census data, the Pew Research Center found that as of last year, nearly half of all American adults aren't married.

    "The vast majority of Americans continue to say they would prefer to become married someday," according to Dr. Megan Sweeney, associate professor at UCLA in the Department of Sociology.

    Nevertheless, the numbers are declining. 72 percent of adult Americans were married in 1960. In 2010, only 51 percent were hitched.

    The change is especially dramatic for the young adult population, dropping from 59 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 2010.

    People are also delaying marriage for a lot of reasons, too.

    Christopher Polk/Getty Images for PCA, File

    "Increasing acceptability of childbearing outside of marriage, of sex outside of marriage, of couples living together when they are not married," says Sweeney.

    And there are other factors.

    Sweeney said people staying in school longer, women spending more of their lives working in the labor market and an increasing uncertainty of men's prospects in the labor market all contribute to this trend toward delayed marriage.

    Pew research found that the decrease in marriage rates isn't an American phenomenon, and can be seen in other advanced countries. But Pew did find that marriage rates dropped far less for the college educated population than for those with less education.

    What is on the rise is the median age for men and women to get married for the first time. That's up by about six years over the last half-century. But Dr. Sweeney notes that comparisons to 1960 should be taken with a grain of salt.

    "1960 was in no way typical of United States family patterns in any other time point," according to Sweeney.

    And just because the non-married rates are rising, that doesn't mean a lot of those unwedded folks haven't walked down the aisle before. 72% have been married at least once. Of course, that's still a decline from 85% in 1960.

    "I don't know. I think maybe 50 50 would be nice," says Eric Durrschmidt.

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