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A record number of 40-year-olds have never been married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data from 2021.
The Pew analysis found that 25% of 40-year-old Americans have never been married before — a “significant increase” from 20% in 2010. In 1980, that number was just 6% but has been continually increasing since. The majority of the never-married 40-year-olds, 78%, also did not live with a “romantic partner,” the data found.
“In all prior generations of American adults, less than 1 in 5 adults had not tried marriage by age 40,” Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, told CNN.
Broken down by gender, more men than women had never been married by 40, with 28% of men and 22% of women falling under the category. This appears to be part of a larger trend of people delaying or forgoing marriage altogether.
Earlier this year, the National Marriage Project released a report titled “The Date Night Opportunity,” which revealed that the median age of marriage had been increasing over the past five decades. In 1970, the median age of marriage for men was 23, but in 2021, that number was 30.
As for race, the Pew analysis found that black 40-year-olds were much more likely than white, Hispanic, or Asian 40-year-olds to never have been married. Forty-six percent of black people in that that age group were never married, while the numbers were 27% for Hispanics, 20% for white people, and 17% for Asians.
Pew also broke the numbers down based on educational attainment, finding that “40-year-olds without a four-year college degree were more likely to have never married than those who had completed at least a bachelor’s degree.” Thirty-three percent of 40-year-olds with a high school degree had never married, while 26% with some college and 18% with a Bachelor’s degree had never married.
According to 2001 data from the Census Bureau, roughly one in four of the unmarried 40-year-olds had married by age 60, indicating that most of the quarter of 40-year-olds in the 2021 census data will never tie the knot in their lives.
Fry told CNN the data is analyzed at 40 because people “take stock of their lives at the start of a new decade of life.” He added that age 40 makes sense because fertility and marriage are related, and many women want children within a marriage. “Since fertility wanes after the age of 40, 40 is an appropriate age to document marriage outcomes,” Fry said.
According to the National Marriage Project report, 81% of men who married early reported satisfaction in their relationship, while 71% of men who married later in life reported the same, with similar results among women.