Most U.S. adults married, but never-marrieds rising

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Michael F. Haverluck (

abstinence teens holding handsA recent study on marriage, divorce, singleness, premarital cohabitation, dating and other dynamics of romance amongst adults in the United States was launched and published just in time for Valentine’s Day, with results showing that over half of them remain married, while those who have never been married have increased to three in 10 Americans.

Despite the increased attack on traditional marriage under the last eight years under the Obama administration, research from the Barna Group found that a majority of American adults remain married – a trend that has remained constant since the turn of the century – and divorce rates have stagnated, as well.

“Overall, the segment of American adults who are currently married – though fluctuating slightly over the last 16 years – remains steady at just over half of all adults (52 percent in 2000 and 52 percent in 2016),” Barna reported. “Those who are currently divorced also remains steady at about one in 10 (10 percent), from 11 percent in 2000. Because of the reality of re-marriage, the currently divorced rate does not take into account past divorce, which, when accounted for, brings the proportion of American adults who have ever been divorced to one-quarter (25 percent) – a rate that has remained steady since 2000 (when it was 24 percent).”

Of marriage and divorce

However, taking a look at American adults who have never tied the knot, the prospect of marriage has diminished over the years.

“The percentage of single people (never married), however, has increased from just over one-quarter (27 percent) to three in 10 (30 percent),” the study revealed. “This uptick is the big story here, and it only gets more pronounced when looking closely at the trends within the different age groups. For instance, between 2000 and 2016, the relational makeup of those aged between 25 and 39 shifted dramatically. In the 16 years since 2000, the amount of single people in the 25–29 range rose 9 percentage points (from 50 percent to 59 percent), and the amount of single people in the 30-39 range also rose 10 percentage points (from 24 percent to 34 percent).

During the 17-year period since the turn of the century, similar changes have taken place with married adults.

“In the 16 years since 2000, the amount of people married in the 25–29 range dropped 7 percentage points (from 43 percent to 36 percent), and the amount of people married in the 30–39 range dropped 8 percentage points (from 65 percent to 57 percent),” researchers divulged. “These are massive shifts – most pronounced among those in their twenties and thirties – toward a broader move to delay marriage among younger Americans. If you were in your late twenties in the year 2000, you were much more likely to be married than if you were that same age today. These figures are staggering, considering the relatively short time period in which they occur.”

Government figures show the same trends.

“[According to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2011], Americans are getting married later and later,” Barna noted. “The average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 in 1960. In 1960, 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today – according to the Barna numbers, that number is just 52 percent.”

However, there is a major difference when looking at marriage for Americans of faith.

“The difference – and it is a significant one – is that practicing Christians and evangelicals are much more likely to be married than the average American,” researchers noted. “For instance, almost six in 10 (59 percent) practicing Christians are married – a number that has remained steady since 2000 – compared to just over half (52 percent) of the general population. This is even more pronounced among evangelicals, 67 percent of whom are married – 15 percent higher than the general population.”

Yet practicing evangelicals and practicing Christians more closely resemble the general U.S. population when it comes to adults who have been divorced.

“[B]oth groups equal the rate of divorce – both historically and currently – of the general adult population,” those conducting the study explained. “Among both groups, one-quarter (25 percent) have been divorced – as of the 2016 data – compared to that very same number among all adults. So although those with strong religious convictions are more likely to be married, they are also just as likely to have experienced a divorce.”

Cohabitating and dating going hand-in-hand

As the promotion of sexual libertinism and the LGBT agenda continue their push through society after having major support from former President Barack Obama and his policies during his two terms in office, cohabitation has increasingly become an added dimension of dating.

“When it comes to living together, the majority of adults (65 percent) either strongly or somewhat agree it’s a good idea to live with one’s significant other before marriage – compared to one-third (35 percent) who either strongly or somewhat disagree,” Barna found. “Though it may seem that couples would live together primarily for convenience or cost-saving, almost all adults see it as a rite of passage in the path toward marriage.”

This prevailing unbiblical mindset toward a new form of social engineering is seen in the numbers.

“The idea of living with one’s significant other before getting married for the sake of convenience (9 percent) or to save rent (5 percent) isn’t as persuasive as the value of testing compatibility (84 percent),” Barna statistics show. “Though the debate has raged over whether cohabitation reduces or increases the pressure of marriage, it appears that among those who have actually done it, there was no major effect either way. A majority (62 percent) believes that living together did not affect the pressure to get married at all, and those who say it reduced (19 percent) or increased (18 percent) the pressure to get married were evenly split.”

As expected, the biggest detractors of living together before marriage are those adhering to religious beliefs.

“Among those who believe living with one’s significant other before getting married is not a good idea, the biggest factor is religious (34 percent),” the study found. “The expectation of abstinence prior to marriage is a major driver here: 28 percent chose ‘I don’t believe people should have sex before getting married’ as their biggest reason for believing cohabitation is a bad idea. Of lesser importance are issues of practicality (16 percent), valuing family and tradition (12 percent) and other reasons (10 percent).”

Falling away from biblical morality when it comes to marriage and sexual relations, a majority of Americans are – or have  at some time – cohabitated with their partners.

“Among all American adults, almost six in 10 (57 percent) either currently live with their boyfriend/girlfriend or have previously done so – a number very close to the 65 percent who believe it is a good idea,” researchers indicated. “Older, conservative and more religious – Christian or otherwise – Americans are the least likely to have ever cohabited. Surprisingly, Millennials are one of the groups least likely to cohabit. Younger, less religious and more liberal Americans are more likely to have lived with a significant other before marriage. Interestingly, church attenders are among this group, a fact that demonstrates the pervasiveness of this cultural shift.”

Online dating not the norm

Despite the recent trend of online dating – which is easily accessed on portable smartphones, tablets and laptops – a majority of American adults do not see this as an option.

“Overall, almost three in 10 American adults (28 percent) have either tried online dating once or twice (14 percent), use it regularly (5 percent), or have used it previously, but not anymore (9 percent),” the numbers revealed. “But almost three-quarters (72 percent) haven’t tried it at all, and more than half (52 percent) would never do so. That said, of those who have never tried it, 16 percent are still open to it. Gen-Xers (7 percent) and [younger] Millennials (6 percent) are the most regular users of online dating, and Gen-Xers are also more likely to have tried it (37 percent) than any other age group. And interestingly, Millennials, those who have come of age in a digital generation, are not much more likely to be users than Boomers (27 percent vs. 24 percent).

The most likely group to avoid online dating is evangelicals.

“They were the group most likely to say they would never use online dating (75 percent), and only 1 in 10 have either used it once or twice (9 percent) or use it regularly (1 percent),” Barna relayed.

Those who do turn to online dating have their preferences.

“Among users, the most popular site is, which is frequented by more than one-third of users (34 percent),” those conducting the survey pointed out. “The next most popular sites are OK Cupid (21 percent), and eHarmony (19 percent), with Tinder coming in at just over one in 10 users (11 percent). is the most popular site or app among each age group except Millennials, who prefer OK Cupid and Tinder.”

Even though millions of Americans turn to online dating, many are skeptical about it.

“Among those who have previously or currently use online dating, a plurality (39 percent) have had a mixed experience,” the number-crunchers informed. “Almost three in 10 (29 percent) have had a very positive (13 percent) or mostly positive (16 percent) experience, while almost one-third (32 percent) have had a very (15 percent) or somewhat negative (17 percent) experience. But people are still finding love online. Among users of online dating sites and apps, one in 3 (29 percent) met their current partner online, and on average, 2.4 of their friends also met their current partner online.”

Romance at the workplace

Work has been found to be a place where many Americans have pursued or dealt with romance.

“The workplace is rife with romantic (or simply sexual) chemistry: one quarter of all adults (25 percent) believe a coworker or supervisor was attracted to them, and a further 16 percent actually had that coworker or supervisor tell them they were attracted to them,” Barna stated. “Even more (18 percent) had a coworker ask them out on a date, but fewer (6 percent) had supervisors do the same. When it comes to water-cooler conversation, a large 44 percent of employed adults heard men discussing the physical attractiveness of female coworkers, and one-third (33 percent) heard women discussing the physical attractiveness of men.”

However, this kind of attention is often not welcomed.

“Thirteen percent had unwanted sexual or romantic attention from a coworker, and 4 percent from a supervisor,” the survey disclosed. “It may seem obvious that these numbers would increase for single Americans. But that’s not the case. Married adults are as likely to have unwanted sexual or romantic attention from a coworker (14 percent compared to 12 percent of singles), to have a co-worker tell them they were attracted to them (18 percent compared to 15 percent among singles) or have a supervisor ask them out on a date (7 percent compared to 6 percent among singles). They are also as likely to have a co-worker ask them out (both 19 percent).”

The mixing of the sexes is more prevalent in America today than ever before.

“Today’s world demands that men and women interact at unprecedented levels – they are co-workers, friends, supervisors, partners and more,” researchers impressed. “The social narrative has often been that men and women cannot be in a relationship without sexual tension getting in the way. However, most Americans’ lived experience does not that bear that out. The majority of Americans say they have never felt unspoken romantic tension with someone of the opposite sex. Of course, there are understandable expectations: Younger Americans and those who are single have experienced more sexual tension with co-workers, casual acquaintances, close friends and casual friends, than their married counterparts and other groups. The most likely relationship for anyone to feel such romantic tension: casual friendships (20 percent), close friends (19 percent), co-workers (17 percent), and casual acquaintances (16 percent).”

A look at relationship trends

Barna Group Editor-in-Chief Roxanne Stone says that when it comes to romance, complexities in human relationships have always been the norm.

“The state of romance is complicated, but when hasn’t it been?” Stone pondered. “Since the Garden of Eden, humans have been trying to puzzle out love. Where does it come from? How do you really know if this person is the one? Why does it hurt so very much when love breaks? None of these questions have disappeared in the 21st century – people are still falling in and out of love, [and] there are still hundreds of love songs and heartbreak songs being written every year. Romantic love isn’t going anywhere. But the state of romance – the reasons and mechanics for how we date, the when and why of getting married, the places we find love – has changed dramatically in a very short period of time.”

She maintains that marriage is the galvanizing backbone of society.

“Marriage itself has seen the greatest impact,” Stone added. “While once viewed as the primary end goal for romantic relationships, the institution of marriage now seems to be under great scrutiny. People are getting married later and later in life, they are dating and breaking up with more people before they commit to a life-long relationship. The ‘trials and errors’ of dating now include living together as an assumed, final hurdle before marriage.”

The lead editor of the California-based Christian nonprofit organization asserts that views regarding marriage in the U.S. remain strong – whether they are supportive or doubtful of it.

“In 2014, we found that while 82 percent of Millennials want to get married some day, they want to wait until they feel more fully developed as a person (70 percent), are financially established (69 percent), and have lived together (60 percent),” Stone stressed. “A full 30 percent of Millennials aren’t so sure about marriage at all – they express doubt as to whether or not they even believe in the conventional form of marriage. [This is] an understandable attitude when you consider that nearly 40 percent of them did not grow up in two-parent homes. Millennials and Gen-Xers were children when divorce rates hit an all-time high, and their cautious approach toward marriage is the likely result.”

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