The End of Marriage in America?

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America is getting cold feet.

Four in 10 Americans now believe that marriage is obsolete, compared to just 28% who felt that way back in 1978, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Group in conjunction with Time magazine.

The survey, which is based on interviews with 2,691 people, found that the majority of Americans now accept the idea of unmarried couples living together and raising children.

To a certain degree, this new norm may have been accelerated by the recession, which, according to previous studies, has forced more unmarried couples to move in together because it’s more cost-efficient.

However, the Pew study also highlights recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that show the more long-term decline of marriage nationwide. In 2008, more than half of all American adults (52%) were married. By comparison, nearly three quarters of all adults (72%) were married back in 1960.

But perhaps the most striking shift is among younger Americans. In 1960, 68% of people in their 20s were married but in 2008, that number had dropped drastically to just 26%.

Pew Research also found that the decline in marriage varies partly based on the level of education of the couple. Nearly two thirds of those with at least a college degree were married in 2008, while less than half of those with a high school degree or fewer years of education were married that same year. Though it is worth noting that each of those demographics have seen an overall decline in marriage during the past 50 years.

Still, for all the evidence to the contrary, Americans remain hopeful about the future of marriage in this country, with 67% of those surveyed by Pew saying they are optimistic about marriage in the years to come, compared to just 46% who said they were optimistic about the economic system.

So, there you have it. As grim as the future may be for marriage, the economy is still much worse.

Check out MainStreet’s list of the most divorced states in America.

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