Unwed Older Millennials, You're Not Alone

Record number of 40-year-old Americans have never been married, per new Pew research
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Unwed Older Millennials, You're Not Alone
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Dan Dalton)

If you've recently made it to the big 4-0 and never gone down the aisle, you're definitely not alone: About 25% of 40-year-olds in the US have yet to be married, per 2021 stats from the US Census Bureau cited by the Pew Research Center—a record high that continues a downward trend since the '60s in tying the knot. Just over a decade ago, in 2010, that percentage hovered at 20%, leading Pew to deem its most recent findings a "significant increase." Go back even further, to 1980, and that figure was as low as 6%.

It's not even as though most of those who remain unmarried at 40 are living together: Last year, just 22% of unmarried adults ages 40 to 44 were cohabitating. According to Pew's research, a larger share of men than women had still never wed by age 40, while Black 40-year-olds were less likely to have said "I do" than their Hispanic, white, and Asian counterparts. The center chose 40 as the age to focus on because adults tend to "take stock of their lives at the start of a new decade of life," Richard Fry, a senior Pew researcher, tells CNN, adding: "Some women may want to have children in the context of marriage. Since fertility wanes after the age of 40, 40 is an appropriate age to document marriage outcomes."

Time cites various possible reasons for the long-term marriage decline, including not as much stigma anymore around being single, diverse types of families that don't feel they need that piece of paper, and the ability of individuals to have children without necessarily having a partner. But the magazine notes economics might come into play most of all, and it's a factor that favors women, who don't need men as much anymore to make their way in the world. "Economically, [men are] not as attractive partners as they once were," says Fry. "The nation's labor market is working against them." (More marriage stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.