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Married Couples Now Less Than Half of U.S. Households

2010 census shows married-couple households at lowest point in U.S. history

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Published May 27, 2011

Married couples have dropped to less than half of all American households for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The change took place sometime during the past decade (2000-2010), according to demographers at the Brookings Institution, but it only became official when the 2010 census confirmed that married couples now represent only 48 percent of American households.

Decline of Married Couples a Big Change
That 48 percent is only slightly less than the figure reported in the 2000 census, but it is a huge cultural and demographic change since 1950, when married couples represented 78 percent of all U.S. households.

Many trends have contributed to that change. Today, college-educated people are more likely to marry later and stay married while people without college degrees tend to marry earlier and are more likely to divorce. In addition, society at large no longer condemns cohabitation, which gives committed couples more options.

Other U.S. demographic changes include:

  • A growing number of households headed by single seniors.
  • More U.S. households than ever before headed by women without husbands, an 18 percent increase in the decade between 2000 and 2010.
  • A 16 percent increase over the past decade of households whose occupants were not a family, which includes a growing number of single seniors who are pooling their resources and live together in retirement.

Marriage Still Popular Among Americans
According to the experts, however, the apparent shift away from marriage shouldn't be viewed as definitive. Despite the decline of married couples as a percentage of U.S. households, most Americans do eventually marry.

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