U.S. Marriage Rate Lowest Ever Recorded, But Headed Down Slower

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The U.S. Marriage Forecast published by Demographic Intelligence forecasts the changing face of marriage by age, income, eduction and ethnicity.

2015-2017 U.S. Marriage Forecast

Marriage rate in the U.S. is predicted to fall to a low of 6.74 marriages per 1,000 population this year.

The United States marriage rate is at a century low and is poised to go lower, according to the 2015 edition of the U.S. Wedding ForecastTM from Demographic Intelligence. Driven by a cultural retreat from marriage, the marriage rate in the U.S. is predicted to fall to a century low of 6.74 marriages per 1,000 population this year, 6.72 in 2016, and 6.70 in 2016, all down from a rate of 7.09 per 1,000 in 2008.

“Even though we have seen a modest recovery in the economy, the marriage rate continues to slowly decline,” said Sam Sturgeon, Ph.D., president of Demographic Intelligence. “A variety of factors—including sluggish job opportunities for the less educated, and declines in American religion—account for the American retreat from marriage.”

Drawing on an extensive analysis of demographic, cultural, and economic trends, the new report from DI provides detailed projections of U.S. marriage trends in 2015, 2016, and 2017 by income, education, age, race, and ethnicity. Three findings from The U.S. Wedding ForecastTM are particularly noteworthy:

  •     The percentage of weddings to college-educated women rose from 30 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2015. “Most women still desire to marry, but increasingly, better educated women are more likely than their less educated peers to actually do so,” said Sturgeon.
  •     After the Great Recession, marriage fell most among less educated and young women. The report finds that total marriages fell, from 2008 to 2015, more than 13 percent among women with a high school degree or less. They also fell more than 14 percent among women aged 24 and younger over this period. “Because the economic downturn did not hit everyone equally, younger and less-educated women appear to be delaying marriage until conditions improve” said Sturgeon.
  •     Trends have also shifted for Hispanic brides. In 2008, 15 percent of weddings were to Hispanic women. In 2015, DI projects that 18 percent of weddings will be to Hispanic women.

Declines in marriage are being driven by four factors, according to Sturgeon:

1)    Men without college degrees have seen their real income, and the stability of their jobs, fall in recent years. This reduces their marriageability.
2)    Men and women are postponing or foregoing marriage in larger numbers, partly because they have less faith that marriage is permanent.
3)    Cohabitation has emerged as a competitor to marriage, insofar as it offers intimacy and the opportunity to have children without requiring the same level of commitment.
4)    Young Americans are less religious than are previous generations, which reduces the importance of getting married, including before children come along.

The forecast also provides some evidence, however, that the retreat from marriage in the United States is slowing. Sturgeon noted that the pace of decline in the marriage rate has slowed in recent years, and that the share of births outside of marriage has stopped growing since the Great Recession.

The U.S. Wedding ForecastTM is typically more than 99 percent accurate in predicting U.S. wedding trends. The forecast model proved 99.39 percent accurate in predicting total 2012 marriages.

“This report fills a critical gap for executives and analysts working in the wedding industry,” noted Dr. Sturgeon. “DI’s projections are particularly important because the economic and cultural drivers of marriage are changing so much today. Thus, Demographic Intelligence gives companies a clear sense of the demographic road ahead.”

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About Demographic Intelligence

Demographic Intelligence (DI) is the premier provider of U.S. wedding trends and birth forecasts for businesses with an interest in marriage and birth trends in the United States. DI provides reports and consulting services to companies in the following sectors: jewelry, clothing, juvenile products, healthcare, media, financial services, consumer food, and household products. Past clients include David’s Bridal, Disney, Procter & Gamble, and Bain Capital.
Demographic Intelligence is advised in its work by five leading demographers and sociologists: Princeton economist Alicia Adsera, University of Pennsylvania demographer Hans-Peter Kohler, University of North Carolina demographer Philip Morgan, University of Washington demographer Ethan Sharygin, and University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project at U.Va.

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