Recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That’s down from 52 percent in the last Census and, for the first time in U.S. history, puts households led by married couples as a plurality.
The flip in the 2010 Census happened in 32 states. In another seven states, less than 51 percent of households were helmed by married couples.
The reason, said Portland State University demographer Charles Rynerson, is twofold: The fast-growing older population is more likely to be divorced or widowed later in life, and 20-somethings are putting off their nuptials for longer stretches.
Money may also be a driving force for why people in their 20s choose to postpone marriage.
“We lived together and we saved up,” Echo Gardner told CBS2/KCAL9′s Suzanne Marques.
Marques spoke with the couple, who say they lived together for a year before deciding to get married.
“We had to make sure, ‘hey this is what we want’ and it worked out, we got married and we’re happy, you know,” David Gardner said.
The data supports that, as the Census Bureau reported last year that opposite-sex unmarried couples living together jumped 13 percent from 2009 to 7.5 million.
In addition, fears of not being able to hang onto a job, a widening labor market for women and a shift away from having kids at a young age have all proved to be a disincentive for people in their 20s and early 30s to join the ranks of the married.
We’re also living longer, with an average life expectancy of 78 years, nearly a decade longer than in the 1960s.
To reflect the changing attitudes on marriage, the Census Bureau has broadened the definition of family this year to include unmarried couples, such as same-sex partners, as well as foster children who are not related by blood or adoption.
And attitudes on marriage are changing, too. About 39 percent of Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research Center study published in November, up from 28 percent in 1978.
“Back in the 60s, 50s, 40s people valued marriage more than they do now and if you grow up in broken homes and that’s all you see, then that’s all you know,” David Gardner said.
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