Record Share of Young Adults May Never Marry

A new study of marriage and social trends by the Pew Research Center estimates that 25 percent of today’s young adults will never marry.

It’s a troubling statistic for an industry that, according to the Jewelry Research Institute, gets more than 40 percent of its sales from bridal jewelry.

The study looked at census data to evaluate marriage rates and found a steady increase in the percentage of each cohort (the group of people born within a 10-year period) to never marry. For the cohort that was 25- to 34-year-olds in 1960, just 5 percent had never been married 20 years later. But that share has increased with each cohort, and researchers estimate that, if trends continue, in 20 years when today’s 25- to 34-year-olds are in their forties and fifties, 25 percent will have never married. 

The study cited several reasons for the trend: Adults are marrying later in life; cohabitation and child-rearing without marriage is up; and society as a whole is placing less importance on the convention of marriage. 

The study also found that a record number of Americans older than 25 have never been married (1 in 5 versus 1 in 10 in 1960) and that the rates of unmarried Americans who want to wed are falling. Just over half (53 percent) of unmarried adults of any age say that they want to marry, versus 61 percent in 1960.

The full study is available at pewsocialtrends.org.