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Fewer Americans with a ring on it

A pair of wedding rings.
A pair of wedding rings.
firemedic58/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Married couples in the U.S. are at a record low, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. The 2010 statistics say just 51 percent of adults are married, compared to 1960 when 72 percent of all adults were hitched. Young Americans in particular have heard a quiet hush of wedding bells. The median age of those walking down the aisle for the first time has never been higher: brides at age 26.5 and grooms at 28.7.

Sociologists insist that marriage is still an appealing institute. We still like it enough to put a ring on it – it’s simply that more people are delaying the commitment, and many are staying single for longer periods after divorce. The survey also showed a sharp one-year drop of new marriages between 2009 and 2010, but that "may or may not be related to the sour economy," according to Pew researchers. "Fallout from the Great Recession may be a factor in the recent decrease in newlyweds, although the linkage between marriage rates and economic hard times is not entirely clear."

Another demographic seeing a particular hit is the less-educated. Family researcher, Stephanie Coontz, said low-income people are putting off marriage as they hope to become more financially viable, which may never happen for them. She says while some of the factors in these statistics are negative, many are positive.


What influenced when and whether you tied the knot? How have attitudes towards marriage shifted in your family and among your friends? What are individuals losing and what are they gaining with the single life or cohabitation? What are the consequences for your community and for the economy?


Stephanie Coontz, teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington; Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families; Author "A Strange Stirring": The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books, 2011) & “Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage” (Viking Press, 2005).