Key Facts about Unmarried Americans

Did you know:

  • There are 112 million unmarried Americans, representing over 47% of the adult population (ACS, 2012).
  • Since 2005, the majority of US households have not been headed by married couples. The number of non-married-couple households continues to grow (ACS 2005-2007).
  • There are more than 51 million households headed by unmarried Americans, representing roughly 44% of all households and the majority of households in 23 states, plus the District of Columbia (CPS, 2007).

In fact, unmarried people are probably more common than you would expect. Increasingly more adults today are living unmarried lifestyles…

  • There are more than 31 million one-person households in the U.S., representing roughly 27% of all households (CPS, 2007).
  • As of 2000, this was the most common household type (Frank Hobbs, 2005).
  • The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% between 1990 and 2007 (CPS 2007).
  • The majority of couples marrying today cohabited first (Larry Bumpass and Hsien-Hen Lu, 2000).

…while increasingly more children today are living with unmarried parents:

  • 39.7% of all births are to unmarried women (CDC, 2007).
  • Nearly 40% of different-sex, unmarried American households include children (CPS, 2007).
  • 41% of first births by unmarried women are born to cohabiting partners (Larry Bumpass and Hsien-Hen Lu, 2000).
  • About two-fifths of children are expected to live in a cohabiting household at some point (Census, 2000).

Like the larger population, the unmarried population is diverse and represented by people from every walk of life:

  • 46.6% of the unmarried population aged 18 and older are male, while 53.4% are female (CPS, 2008).
  • 23.0% of the unmarried population aged 18 and older are people of color, while 77.0% are white (CPS, 2007).
  • While a clear majority of the unmarried population is white, it is considerably more racially diverse than the married population.
    39.2% of the unmarried population aged 18 and older were formerly married, while 60.8% have always been single (CPS, 2008).
  • 38.6% of unmarried households have incomes under $30K, 21.6% between $30K-50K, 17.6% between $50K-75K, and 22.2% over $75K (ACS, 2005).
  • 10.7% of the unmarried population report living together with unmarried partners (ACS, 2005-2007).
  • 12.8% of unmarried-partner households report being same-sex (ACS, 2005-2007).

By and large, Americans surveyed have embraced alternatives to marriage and the diversity of lifestyles and relationships today:

  • In a 1995 Harris poll, 90% of people believed society “should value all types of families” (Stephanie Coontz, 1997).
  • Only one-quarter of American households consist of what most people think of as a “traditional family,” i.e. a married couple and their children (National Opinion Research Center (University of Chicago), 1999).
  • 43% of Americans in their twenties believe that cohabiting couples should receive the same benefits as married couples (Gallup, 2001).
  • 45% of Americans in their twenties believe that government should not be involved in licensing marriage (Gallup, 2001).
  • 68% of Americans who have been previously married, but are no longer married, plan to remain unmarried (Gallup, 2006).
  • 55% of Americans approve of men and women living together without being married (Gallup, 2007).
  • 57% of Americans consider an unmarried couple who have lived together for five years just as committed in their relationship as a married couple who have lived together for the same time (Gallup, 2008).
  • The majority of Americans aged 18-64 consider living in unmarried households as having either no effect or a positive effect on children (Gallup, 2008).

Unfortunately, the unmarried population remains disadvantaged and even stigmatized by public opinion and policies. As a result, disproportionate numbers of unmarried people are:

  • Black (30.9% of Blacks are married, compared to 69.1% unmarried, while 7.5% of the married population is Black, compared to 19.8% of the unmarried population) (ACS, 2005-2007).
  • Impoverished (5.2% of married people aged 16 years or older are below the poverty level, compared to 14.7% of unmarried people aged 16 years or older) (CPS, 2008).
  • In low-income households (14.9% of married households earn under $30K annually, compared to 38.6% of unmarried households, while 43.0% of married households earn over $75K annually, compared to 22.2% of unmarried households) (ACS, 2005).
  • Less educated (40.9% of the married population have a high-school diploma or less, compared to 49.4% of the unmarried population, while 30.1% of the married population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 19.7% of the unmarried population) (ACS, 2005).
  • Under 30 or over 80 years old (8.9% of the married adult population is aged 18-29 years, compared to 33.7% of the unmarried adult population, while 3.2% of the married adult population is aged 80 years or over, compared to 6.5% of the unmarried adult population) (ACS, 2005).
  • Unemployed and uninsured (60.4% of the unemployed are unmarried, 59.8% of the uninsured are unmarried, 56.4% of those uninsured and not in the labor force are unmarried, 71.4% of those uninsured and unemployed are unmarried) (CPS, 2008).
  • Women (49.9% of the married population are women, compared to 56.4% of unmarried population) (ACS, 2005-2007).

Click here for more UE statistics.

As a reference, look to our Government Terminology guide.

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