Census Bureau data show fewer Americans choosing marriage


Giselle Vasquez

Census Bureau data show a narrowing gap between the numbers of married and unmarried Americans. An interactive version of this visualization is available below.

Giselle Vasquez, Staff Writer

Marriage. For some, the word might invoke warm fuzzy feelings while for others it might send shivers down their spine. For some, it’s a sacred union while for others it’s a piece of paper with no meaning.

The concept of marriage has been around for as long as humans have. It used to be considered a purely political or economic move for many, but it is now widely seen as an act of love and commitment.

With the gap between married and unmarried individuals narrowing throughout the years, data from the U.S. Census Bureau seems to indicate that the concept of committing to someone for the rest of one’s life isn’t as appealing as it used to be.


In a survey conducted to understand the narrowing gap, respondents were asked about their thoughts on the overall institution of marriage. While both positive and negative responses were received, there seemed to be a consensus among all respondents that marriage is a big commitment that should not be taken lightly.

It’s a commitment only 47% of respondents said they would like to eventually make themselves. Those who responded otherwise pointed to reasons such as not seeing the need for documentation to define their relationship, not having found the right person yet or not being in a position to settle down.


According to data, it’s also a commitment more women are able and willing to make than men are. In 2020, about 30.5% of females 15 years or older were never married as opposed to the 36.6% of men. When asked why this disparity exists, women responded that they are “more emotionally involved and more mature for big commitments like marriage.” On the other hand, men responded that it has to do with the societal pressure women face.

While data show that women have been able to make this commitment more than men, it also shows that the age at which they are choosing to do so has steadily increased, with both women and men choosing to get married at an older age. In 2020, the median age to marry for the first time was 28.1 for women and 30.5 for men compared to the lowest it has ever been, which were 20.1 and 22.5, respectively, in 1956.


The choice to marry at an older age is one that many have made due to economic security and career success. One respondent said that people “want to have a career first and be successful independently first before having to depend on someone else,” a response to which many others had a similar take.

The institution of marriage is something that has been a part of society for a long time, but people today seem to be content without it. Marriage is no longer viewed as necessary for committing to a partner with data showing an increase in the popularity of cohabiting, which is living with an unmarried partner.

As one respondent worded it, “Why should anyone need the approval of any organizational entity to be together, and why would anyone need this approval to be happy in a relationship?”