America begins its post-marriage experiment

Summary: Although we have only fragments of the full picture, the numbers tell the tale of America entering the post-marriage era. Bombshell numbers, seldom mentioned by journalists. With marriage a foundation stone of our society, we can only guess at what this new future holds for us. Understanding what’s happening is the first step to preparing.

Newly Married Couple
Dreamstime photo © Popa Sorin.

US Marital Status Data Through 2017.

By Dalrock at his website.

I stumbled upon some new marital status data as of November 2017 at the US Census, and thought I’d share the charty goodness.  First up is the median age of marriage, going back to 1890.

Median age at first marriage

From the accompanying spreadsheet, you can see that the median age for women crossed into uncharted territory in 1979 at 22.1, breaking the 1890 record of 22. For men, the median age of marriage didn’t exceed the 1890 value of 26.1 until 1989 when it was 26.2. As of 2017 the median age of first marriage for men and women was 29.5 and 27.4, respectively.

But the median age of marriage only tells us about the men and women who do marry. The next two charts give a bit of a look at marital status trends overall.

Men's marital status

Women's marital status

Note that the top two lines on both charts (married and never married) are driven in part by the increase in age of first marriage. When men and women marry later they spend a smaller percentage of their adult lives married, and a larger percentage counted as never married.

Better yet, look at these patterns by age.

If they had the never married data broken out by age bracket as I was able to do using the Census’ 2014 Family and Livings Arrangements data, we’d have a better understanding of how much of the trend is delayed marriage vs not marrying. Here is the 2014 data.

Percent of white women who are never married

Another perspective: marriage data by race

The other limitation with the Census charts included above is that changing racial and ethnic demographics could be driving part of the changes we see.  Marriage and divorce rates vary widely by race, so it could be that the changes we are seeing in recent decades are due more to racial and ethnic changes than due to an overall societal trend.  Fortunately the Census offers a spreadsheet with the marital status data broken down by race and ethnicity.  I didn’t take the time to chart this out for all races, but here is what it looks like for White* men and women.

White Men's marital status

White Women's marital status

Dalrock’s Update 27 August.

Marriage rates for Black and White Americans

It is clear that the modern view of marriage has been a catastrophe for Black families. I had no idea that …

  • Black and White marriage rates started out so close.  Note that in 1950 White men were only 4% more likely than Black men to be married, and the same was true for White vs Black women.
  • The deterioration of the Black family was already in full swing in the 1950s.  It would be interesting to see what social policy changes were underway in the 1950s that might explain this.  I suspect there were precursor changes to how illegitimacy was legally handled, as well as welfare policies encouraging single motherhood.  It would also help to see the data on Black out of wedlock birth rates, but the data for Blacks is missing until 1969.

Here is the same chart, but starting from 1990 and including Asians and Hispanics.

Marriage rates for Americans by race and ethnicity

Important notes about this.

  • White and Black men are more likely to be married than women. This is reversed for Asians and Hispanics.
  • Asian marriage rates are very nearly as high in 2017 as they were in 1990, while the same figures have dropped for all other races.
  • The data for Hispanics is deceptive because first generation Hispanics have very low divorce rates, but native born Hispanics have divorce rates comparable to Blacks. Given that marriage rates decline where the risk of divorce is highest, I expect Hispanic marriage rates to fall dramatically over the coming decades.


My comments

These are important numbers. But they ignore a change that drastically affects the picture: the rise of cohabitation by unmarried couples. Couples “shacking up” for a few years before marriage probably explains much of the rising age of first marriage (contradicting the usual explanations).

The decrease in the percent of people married also reflects people shacking up instead of marriage, before marriage, and after divorce (“once burned, twice shy”). While superficially similar to marriage, the differences are radical — and give people’s lives a very different pattern than when most people married and stayed married.

The difference is even greater when there are children. Instability in their living circumstances has many and profound effects.

The numbers tell the tale. In 2005/06 less 60% of US adolescents (11, 13, and 15 years old) lived with both birth parents, per the OCED Family Database (source). That was the lowest level among OECD nations. That number is probably lower today. The numbers are worse among the poor and some minorities. An amazing 40% of children are born to unmarried parents (per the CDC). Children living in fatherless homes are more prone to suicide and crime (see the numbers). Girls living without a father are far more prone to be sexually assaulted.

Update: on a related note, see how the trends of delayed childbearing by women vary — surprisingly – by nation.

I believe the changes today foreshadow far larger changes in the next decade as we entered the post-marital era. This is another of the great experiments the Left is running on America, with us as lab rats. We can only guess at how it will end.

About Dalrock

He is a married man living with his wife and our two kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is very interested in how the post feminist world impacts himself and his family,  uses his blog to explore these issues. See some of his posts about marriage.

  1. Time and fantasy: marriage itself has been degraded for many decades.
  2. The one obstacle she can’t remove: divorce is regarded as a woman’s failure.
  3. More bad news for marriage is baked in.

For more information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about society and gender issuesabout feminismabout marriage, and especially these …

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  8. See how women’s calculus of marriage shapes America.
  9. Men are going Galt. Marriage is dying. — A review of books from the cutting edge of the revolution.
  10. Men are abandoning the rat race, & changing American society. — See the data.
  11. Part 1: Why men are avoiding work and marriage.
  12. Part 2: Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends on the answer.
  13. The coming crash as men and women go their own way.

An important book about marriage in the 21st century

Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters
Available at Amazon.

Men on Strike:
Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood,
and the American Dream – and Why It Matters

By Helen Smith.

She is a psychologist specializing in “forensic issues” in Knoxville TN. She has a PhD and two MA’s in something or other. From the publisher about this book…

“American society has become anti-male. Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going ‘on strike.’ They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates. The trend is so pronounced that a number of books have been written about this “man-child” phenomenon, concluding that men have taken a vacation from responsibility simply because they can. But why should men participate in a system that seems to be increasingly stacked against them?

“As Men on Strike demonstrates, men aren’t dropping out because they are stuck in arrested development. They are instead acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In addition, men are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be injured by the myriad of laws, attitudes and hostility against them for the crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century. Men are starting to fight back against the backlash. Men on Strike explains their battle cry.”

7 thoughts on “America begins its post-marriage experiment”

  1. Pingback: America begins its post-marriage experiment - W Contest

  2. I was surprised to see that the number of women who were widowed exceeded the number of women who were divorced as late as 1995.

    (For men the crossover point seens to be about 1971, but it’s to be expected that there will be more widows than widowers due to women’s greater life expectancy, and because women typically marry men who are a few years older.)

  3. Report: 50% of all marriages end in divorce.

    Stat: As of 2017, roughly 10% of men and women have a current marital status of “Divorced.”
    How to reconcile the two facts?
    The average divorced person has 3.2 marriages. The average married person has about 1.1 marriages. Oddly people who get divorced seem more likely to marry other people who got divorced. Which tends to lead to more divorces.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Strange times, indeed. We should rename the institution something other than “marriage”, since it has few similarities to that ancient institution.

    2. If only there was a way to tell if you were going to be an average divorced person or average married person…

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        That’s an important point. We expect young men to determine if a woman will make a good wife – or evolve into something quite different than the woman he married. That’s far beyond the abilities of most.

        Day 1: “Till death do we part.”

        Seven years later, with the youngest child in kindergarten: “I’ve grown and want a divorce, child support, and community property.”

  4. Larry,

    As a long-time lurker, I figured I might give you some more anecdotal info. I’m a 29 year old white male. Work full-time, white collar job, never married. Having learned of and practiced some game, and having learned about what women are doing (see “alpha fux, beta bux”) and how they are treating men nowadays, I can’t say I’d ever marry an American woman. I’d only think about it if she was a virgin. Even then…

    I’ve been rudely rejected, flaked on, ignored, stood up, blue-balled, etc by American women. At this point, I’ve basically given up on the thought of a local marriage and have thought about looking abroad for women less corrupted by socialist and feminist ideologies. I’d like to have been married. But women in their twenties just want to have fun with hot high status guys. If you’re not that guy, it’s not worth messing with them.

    Just my $0.02. I’ll probably end up a wealthy bachelor, alone, paying for escorts, but that’s better than getting taken to divorce court and cleaned out financially. Audi and a nice crib > prison and not being able to see your child.

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