Is marriage obsolete?: By the numbers

A new study suggests that young people are waiting to tie the knot — if they ever decide to do so. Is a venerable institution coming undone?

In 1960 nearly three quarters of American adults were married while in 2008 it was just over half.
(Image credit: Corbis)

The age-old tradition of marriage is getting a serious makeover, at least in the eyes of young Americans. A new survey by Pew and Time reveals that young people express a "deep ambivalence" about marriage across the board, and are increasingly wary of getting hitched. The study also found that the definition of what constitutes a family is changing dramatically. (Watch an MSNBC discussion about the study.) Here's a by-the-numbers look at Pew's survey, and what it says about an evolving institution:

39 percent

Proportion of the 2,691 people surveyed who think marriage is becoming obsolete

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

28 percent

U.S. adults who thought marriage was becoming obsolete in 1978


Median age at which men got married in 2010


Median age at which women got married in 2010. The age for both genders has inched "about a year every decade since the '60s."

72 percent

Adults who were married in 1960. Among 20-somethings, the figure was 68 percent.

52 percent

Adults who were married in 2008. Among 20-somethings, the figure had fallen to 26 percent.

86 percent

Percentage of respondents who consider a single parent and a child to be a family; 63 percent say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child constitute a family

41 percent

Babies born to unmarried moms in 2008

64 percent

Percentage of people with college degrees who were married in 2008

48 percent

People with a high school education who were married in 2008. The 16-point gap between college graduates and high school graduates has increased from 4 percent in 1960.

38 percent

Percentage of Americans with "less education" who said that "financial stability was an important condition for marriage"

10 percent

Increase of marriages, from 1986 to 2003, in which the woman was taller than the man

61 percent

Wives who now work outside the home, up from 40 percent in 1970

13 percent

Increase in people living together between 2009 and 2010. The jump was so sharp that researchers "double-checked their data;" they attributed the rise to the fact that "newly formed couples were less likely to have jobs."

67 percent

Percentage of people who, despite it all, are upbeat about the future of marriage — a much higher number than those who are optimistic about education or the economy

Sources: Time, AOL, Christian Science Monitor

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us