Is Marriage Declining? Here's the facts.

A recent Gallup poll says the majority of Americans are married (54%) or have never married but would like to be someday (21%).

That leaves 5% of Americans who have never married and say they don't want to do so, along with 20% who have been previously married or did not classify their marital status.

Marital Status and Desire to Get Married in the U.S., June 2013

The Census Bureau reports that the rate of marriage is down, from 9.9 marriages per 1,000 Americans in 1987 to 6.8 in 2011.

In addition, researchers at the University of Maryland found that the marriage rate per 1,000 unmarried women fell from 90 in 1950, at the height of the baby boom, to just 31 in 2011.

9% of Americans aged 18 to 34 are unmarried and express no interest in marrying, but 56% of this group is unmarried and does want to get married.

This high level of interest in marriage suggests there is little widespread attitudinal aversion to first-time marriage among the nation's younger unmarried residents.

Marital Status and Interest, by Age, June 2013

Although most Americans are married or would like to get married, less than two-thirds consider it very or somewhat important for a couple to marry if the two want to spend the rest of their lives together or when they want to have a child together.

This is down from 2006, the last time Gallup asked about the importance of marriage in this way.

Fewer than 6 in 10 Americans who have never been married but want to be say it is important that a couple get married in these circumstances.

This suggests that a sizable percentage of Americans who would like to get married still don't think it is important that they do so.

Importance of Marrying, by Marital Status and Interest in Marriage, June 2013

Americans who have never married but would like to were asked to explain why they were still single.  The reasons given are straightforward, including the fact that they have not found the right person or because they are too young, or not ready to get married.

Finances are the third-most-frequently mentioned reason, followed by having no time, career considerations, attending school or not trusting people.

Regardless of age, Americans are much more positive about marriage than not, as the majority of all age groups are married or want to get married someday.  Fewer than 1 in 10 young Americans have never married and say they do not want to get married.

These findings indicate that there is a significant desire for marriage even as the overall marriage rate has dropped in recent years.

On the other hand, Americans' views of the importance of being married when two people want to spend their lives together or have a child has declined in recent years.

Thus, while most younger Americans who have never married express an attitudinal interest in eventually doing so, fewer hold the underlying attitude that such an action is important.

The reasons Americans who have never married yet want to be married give for why they have not yet married support the idea that getting married is to some degree a matter of timing and convenience rather than necessity, as most reasons have to do with waiting for the right partner or the right time.

All in all, the data suggest that marriage holds its traditional status as the expected route for young couples, but the perceived importance of adhering to that tradition may be weakening.

Thus, the overall marriage rate may be dropping partly because younger Americans feel more comfortable in waiting to be married, even if they do get married eventually.