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. This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups but has been more pronounced among blacks. Recent survey data from the Pew Research Center finds never never pdf 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. 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. Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34, the number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012, despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers.
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 1960, 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. 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: one-third of these women have either a bachelor’s or advanced degree, compared with one-quarter of never-married men ages 25 and older. In 1960, 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. 25 and older had never been married. Will Today’s Never-Married Adults Eventually Marry?
Looking at cohorts of young adults ages 25 to 34 going back to 1960, there has been a steady increase since 1970 in the share that remains never married by the time the cohort reaches ages 45 to 54. 25 to 34 had never been married. The next cohort starting in 1970 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.
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 2012, there were 71 first-time newlyweds for every 1,000 never-married adults ages 25 to 34. 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 2,003 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. It also includes projections of the share of today’s never-married young adults that will eventually marry. 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 2012, 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 35.