LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.
Image: Jennifer Pahlka via Wikipedia and Flickr

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Half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data released 12/14/11. In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.

The Pew Research analysis also found that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may be related in part to the sour economy. The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad.

Although half of the adult population is married now, a much higher share— 72%—have been married at least once. However, this “ever married” share is down 15% from the 85% share of the population in 1960.

The percentage of divorced American adults has almost tripled in the last five decades from 5% in 1960 to 14% in 2010. Almost all of that increase occurred in the two decades following 1967, and divorce rates have been fairly stable over the last two decades. Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who has published several studies of marriage and divorce rates for Catholics, Protestants and Jews, says, “part of the increase in divorce rates in the two decades following 1967 was due to the increase in interfaith mixed marriages. Catholics and Jews who marry out have divorce rates almost twice as high as those who do not marry out.”

Rabbi Maller adds that, “Unifying the family through conversion by one partner to the religion of the other does reduce the divorce rate substantially (but not entirely) for Catholics and Jews, but not for most Protestant denominations because they  have higher divorce rates than Catholics and Jews to begin with.”

The rise in the percentage of unmarried is caused by several factors, First, is the rise in the age of people getting married. Second, is the rise in the percentage of divorced people in the pool of the unmarried from 5% to 14%.

Previous marriage experience plays a big role in whether people want to get married (again) or not. A majority of adults who have never been married say that they want to get married (61%), compared with only 26% of adults who have ever been married but are now unmarried.

Rabbi Maller’s Website: