After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high. In 2012, one-in-five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married,according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. In 1960, only about one-in-ten adults (9%) in that age range had never been married.1 Men are more likely than women to have never been married (23% vs. 17% in 2012). And this gender gap has widened since 1960, when 10% of men ages 25 and older and 8% of women of the same age had never married according to PEW.
Many never-married young adults are not “single.” According to Pew Research analysis of the March 2013 Current Population Survey, about 24% of never-married Americans ages 25 to 34 currently live with a partner. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, among women who first cohabited at age 25 to 29, their premarital cohabitation relationship typically lasted about a year and a half (17 months). Research finds that after one year, about three-in-ten young adults get married, 9% break up the relationship and 62% continue cohabiting. By the third year, nearly six-in-ten (58%) married, 19% broke up and 23% remained in the relationship.*
According to the same data from the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly half of women ages 15 to 44 (48%) have cohabited with a partner (before marriage). Women with less than a high school diploma (70%) are more likely to have lived with an unmarried partner than those with a college degree or higher (47%). Among women who are in a cohabiting relationship, college-educated women are more likely than their counterparts who do not have a high school diploma to get married after three years (53% vs. 30%).
* Copen, Casey E., Kimberly Daniels and William D. Mosher. 2013. “First Premarital Cohabitation in the United States: 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth.” National Health Statistics Report, No. 64. April. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf)