Here's why fewer Americans are getting married

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Fewer Americans are getting married these days, even if that pile of bridesmaids dresses in your closet might suggest otherwise.

According to a new Pew Research Center report, a fifth of Americans aged 25 or older have never tied the knot. In 1960, that figure was less than one in 10.


Why are more people foregoing wedded bliss these days?

Ignoring for a moment conservative commentators who say we're a nation of crumbling morals, Pew suggests a much more practical possibility.

It's the economy, stupid!

More than a third of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 say the main reason they are single is they don’t feel financially ready to get married. Consider this: the average wedding now costs an eye-popping $30,000.


Never-married women overwhelmingly value finding a spouse with a steady job, but there's a serious shortage of employed young men. In 1960, 93 percent of young men aged 25 to 34 were working. In 2012, it was 82 percent, according to the report.


Pew also offers this depressing statistic: In 2012, if every never-married young woman wanted to find a never-married man with a job, nine percent would fail because there are simply not enough men in the target group.

At the same time, more women have entered the workforce and the wage gap has narrowed, meaning women are, in general, better positioned to support themselves now than fifty years ago.


There is also an "educational mismatch" between never-married men and women, Pew says, with women more likely to be highly educated than men.


Still, about half of never-married adults would like to eventually marry. The complicating factor is that while women are looking for employed men, men are looking for women who share their childrearing philosophies.

If that sounds dismal, here's something slightly more upbeat.

Pew suggests people aren't getting married because it's just not a priority. In other words, people are still falling in love, living together and having babies, they're just not doing it with wedding bands on their ring fingers.


Where it was once considered scandalous for a couple to live together and raise children out of wedlock, today it is increasingly the norm. Half of those surveyed said society is just as well off if people have priorities that trump marriage and children. Predictably, young people are much more likely to express this sentiment.


The other thing that's no longer a priority? Marrying someone of the same racial or ethnic background. Most Americans - men and women - say it's not important. Interestingly, the vast majority of new marriages still occur between people of the same race or ethnicity.

Pew predicts that when today's young men and women reach their mid-40s, one in four is likely to have never been married. Whether it's for economic or social reasons, one thing is certain: they will represent the highest share of unmarried Americans in modern history.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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