The Census finally got around to publishing the 2014 Families and Living Arrangements tables. As I’ve done in the past, my focus is on the trend of never married White women. Marriage rates vary widely by race, and looking at composite figures hides these distinctions and also has the problem of introducing the potential of demographic changes driving the trend. Whites are still the largest racial group in the US, and since nearly all of the carping about a husband shortage is coming from White women in the media this is the obvious choice. If you want to see a breakdown by race, I have charts breaking out race for 2000 and 2012 here. Also, if you wish to do your own charts and analysis for another race, let me know and I’ll add a link to your post.
Last year’s data made me wonder if we weren’t seeing a leveling off of never married rates in the 25 and older brackets. This year however it was the 20-25 bracket which stayed roughly the same while the never married rate for all of the 25-39 year old brackets increased.
While no one year shows a dramatic change, the cumulative trend from the last 10 years is astonishing, especially since we are now (officially) well past the recession. Back in 2004 the nevermarried rate for 25-29 year old White women was just under 37%, a number which remained roughly the same from 2002-2005. Now less than half of all White women in their late 20s have ever married.
When I first started charting this the most recent data was from 2009. At the time, I didn’t see compelling data backing up the notion that men were on a marriage strike. I’m still not convinced that a “marriage strike” describes what we are seeing, but with five years of additional data it is obvious that we are undergoing a significant change in marriage patterns.
If we take out the 20-24 year olds, there is more room in the chart to see the changes for the older brackets:
Here is what it looks like if we just include White women 30 and over:
Here is the view for 35 and older. The jump in the late thirties bracket is striking, with 17% of White women in their late 30s having never married:
It is interesting that White women in their 40s have so far escaped much of the change. My guess is this reflects some combination of delayed reaction as the change cascades through the age brackets, and increased willingness to settle. Either way, women marrying after forty means their fertility window is all but closed by the time they walk down the aisle. It still counts as a marriage, but from a societal point of view it is something very different than a woman marrying in her 20s or even early 30s. This is also not what young marriage delaying women are telling us they have in mind. They are hoping to delay marriage as long as possible while still marrying in time to have children. Even the 17% of White women who haven’t married by their late thirties have for the most part missed the mark.
Edit: Thanks Glenn Reynolds for the instalanch.