In 1960 85% of American adults had been wed at least once; last year just 70% could say the same. Young people are proving particularly reluctant to try: 28% of men aged between 25 and 34 in 2010—and 23% of women—will not yet have tied the knot by 2030, according to estimates from the Pew Research Center Article on Remarriage.
Earlier research has documented the strong correlation between marriage and financial well-being,4 and this pattern holds for remarried adults as well as for adults in their first marriage. On key economic measures, remarried adults fare better than their currently divorced counterparts and about as well as those in their first marriage. Some 7% of currently remarried adults are living in poverty, compared with 19% of divorced adults. The median annual personal income of remarried adults is about $30,000; this is roughly $5,000 higher than that of divorced adults. Homeownership, which often reflects wealth, is also much higher for the remarried than the divorced—79% versus 58%. Remarried adults also fare much better than those who are widowed in terms of financial well-being.
There are several reasons for this change in marriage trends. More women are working outside the home, and for fairer pay, so a husband is no longer a meal ticket. And attitudes to cohabitation have shifted: almost a quarter of young adults now live with a partner. Given the exorbitant costs of both weddings and divorces in America, living “in sin” seems increasingly sensible, particularly for the many youngsters who are now drowning in college debt.
But while a larger proportion of Americans are shying away from saying “I do”, those that have done it before remain keen to do it again. Last year 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had made vows before, according to a new Pew study. Divorced or widowed adults are about as likely to remarry today—57% have done so—as they were in the 1960s. The prospect is certainly more appealing than it ever used to be, as rising divorce rates have yielded a larger pool of possibilities. So In total, 42m adults in America have been married more than once, up from 14m in 1960. “It’s fascinating that among those people eligible to remarry, the share that do has been stable for such a long time,” reckons Gretchen Livingston, one author of the new research.
A breakdown of the data reveals that men are more likely to remarry than women, and the age difference between partners widens the second time around. It also turns out that trends in longevity have helped nudge more older adults to call it quits. Divorce rates for older Americans have doubled since 1990; in 2011 more than 28% of those who reported divorcing in the previous 12 months belonged to this age group. But older singletons do not necessarily stay in the lonely hearts club for long. Half of divorced seniors (those over 65) had remarried in 2013—up from 34% in 1960.
Specialist dating websites make finding new people easier for those too creaky to hit the dance floor. Maturesinglesonly.com says more than 7m people aged 40 and older have sought their help since 2002, while match.com reckons about 30% of its American users are aged over 50.
Other Key Findings
Fully 8% of newly married adults have been married three times or more. This share is 10% among whites, compared with 6% of blacks, 4% of Hispanics and just 2% of Asian Americans. And 9% of newlyweds with just a high school diploma have been married at least three times. Among those who lack a high school diploma the share is 8%, and among newlyweds with a bachelor’s degree or more, 5% have been married three times or more.
On average, the age gap between spouses in new marriages in which at least one of the spouses has been married before is wider than the age gap between those in a first marriage. Some 16% of newly remarried couples include a husband who is at least 10 years older than his wife. Among first-time newlywed couples, this share is 4%. Overall, 39% of first-time newlywed couples are within a year of each other’s ages, compared with 21% of remarried newlywed couples.
Remarriage is more common among whites than among non-whites or Hispanics. Fully six-in-ten previously married whites have remarried, compared with 51% of Hispanics, 48% of blacks and 46% of Asian Americans.
Previously married adults who were born in the U.S. are more likely than the foreign born to remarry (58% vs. 51%, respectively). Across time this gap has narrowed, as remarriage has risen dramatically among the foreign born, up from 40% in 1960.