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Record-High Number of U.S. 40-Year-Olds Have Never Been Married


This article is published in collaboration with Statista 

by Anna Fleck


A quarter of 40-year-olds in the United States have never been married, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center. This marks the highest figure since the data first started being published back in 1900, and a major leap from the 6 percent low of 1980.


But interestingly, it isn’t just a case of more people cohabiting without getting married: Analysts found that many of the adults surveyed in 2021 were living alone, with just 22 percent of those who had never married between the ages of 40-44 reporting that they were living with a partner.


Looking at a breakdown of the 2021 data by different demographic groups, men were more likely to be unmarried by 40 than women, at 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively. A slightly higher share of Black U.S. adults (46 percent) reported not having married by that age versus Hispanic (27 percent), white (20 percent) or Asian (17 percent) adults. In terms of education, 40-year-olds who didn't finish a four-year college degree were more likely to have never married than those who completed at least a bachelor's degree.


The general increase of people who are still single by 40 suggests that there has been a shift in sentiments on the importance of marriage. The trend is likely due to a wide variety and combination of factors, whether that’s a loosening of stigma around being single, or as Belinda Luscombe of Time Magazine explains, due to economic reasons, such as the fact that since women have “gained economic power, they needed to rely less on men to provide”, or conversely, because many men say they feel they need a level of financial stability to be ready for marriage.


Pew Research Center analysts also highlight how people aged over 40 of course do often get married too, with around one in four 40 year olds who had not married in 2001 having done so by age 60.


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