For the first time in at least a century, the proportion of U.S. adults between 25 and 34 who have never been married last year exceeded those who are married, marking a reversal that follows years of decline in marriage rates, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.
Marriage rates among young adults have been dropping for decades, a decline that accelerated during the 2007-2009 recession that was the longest and deepest since the Great Depression. With stagnant paychecks and a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, many young adults are delaying marriage until they are better set financially, or forgoing matrimony altogether.
In 2009, the proportion of adults 25 to 34 who had never been married was 46.3 percent, compared with 44.9 percent for those who were married, the first time in recent history that never-married young adults outnumbered their married peers, according to an analysis of Census data by Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization in Washington.
The precipitous drop in marriage rates has pushed the proportion of married adults to 52 percent in 2009, the lowest in more than 100 years of statistics.
There are myriad social and economic trends behind the marriage drop, starting with a rise in divorce rates around the 1970s. The growth of women in the work force and their rising educational attainment has made a generation of women less dependent on marriage.
Men and women who do not get married are living together as an alternative to matrimony, or as a first step toward marriage down the line. While marriage has fallen among younger people, the probability of getting married at some point still is at about 90 percent.
Read more: Wall Street Journal