Facts and Figures, available at: ForYourMarriage.org

Facts and Figures

Why Marriage Matters

Facts and Figures

Facts and Figures

The American divorce rate is nearly twice what it was in 1960, though it has declined somewhat since hitting an all-time high in 1980.

A snapshot of marriage in the U.S.:


  • People are getting married later in life.  The median age of those married for the first time is currently 28.3 for men and 25.8 for women (National Health Statistics Report, 2012).  Compare this to the numbers from 1960, when the median age was 23 for men and 20 for women (The State of Our Unions 1999, 10).
  • The marriage rate continues to decline in the United States.  In fact, there has been a decline of over 50% from 1970 – 2010 in the annual number of marriages in every 1000 unmarried adult women. (The State of Our Unions 2011, 60)
  • The percentage of married individuals, over the age of 18, who respond that their marriages are “very happy” has gradually declined over the last four decades, though the numbers have leveled out in the past 20 years.  The most recent studies show that 63.1% of men and 60.7% of women classify their marriages as such. (The State of Our Unions 2011, 66)
  • The rate of satisfaction in marriage is higher for husbands and wives when both regularly maintain religious attendance and feel that God is the center of their marriage. (The State of Our Unions 2011, 31, 33)
  • “Compared with Whites, African Americans are more likely to have children outside of marriage, are less likely to marry at all, and if they do marry, are more likely to end their unions in divorce.” (Marital Quality in African American Marriages, 2011)
  • Both men and women have higher life expectancies when married than those who are single or divorced. (Why Marriage Matters, 30)


  • The American divorce rate is nearly twice what it was in 1960, though it has declined somewhat since hitting an all-time high in 1980.  This decline suggests a higher rate of marital stability, due to both a higher age of first marriage as well as the reservation of marriage for the economically stable. (The State of Our Unions 2011, 67,69)
  • Current estimates suggest that 40-50% of recent marriages will end in separation, prior the death of either spouse.  These figures can be dramatically decreased by a number of different factors.  In other words, “if you are a reasonably well-educated person with a decent income, come from an intact family and are religious, and marry after the age of 25 without having a baby first, your chances of divorce are very low indeed.” (The State of Our Unions 2011, 69, 73)
  • According to recent studies, the percentage of children that experience parental divorce by the age of 12 is estimated to be about 24%.  (Why Marriage Matters, 44)
  • Statistics show that, due to the lack of stability and support in the home, children from divorced parents experience significant decrease in academic success, physical health, and future stability in their own relationships. (Marriage and the Family in the United States: Resources for Society and Why Marriage Matters)


  • Couples who cohabit have a 46% greater risk of divorce than couples who do not live together before marriage (Marriage and the Family in the United States: Resources for Society, 10).  Those who cohabit without a prior commitment to marriage are especially at risk if they eventually decide to marry. (see Dr. Scott Stanley, “Sliding vs Deciding” blog)
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of women presently cohabiting with a man: from 3% in 1982 to 11% in 2006-2010. (National Health Statistics Report, 2012)
  • “Among women, 68% of unions formed in 1997-2001 began as a cohabitation rather than as a marriage.” (National Health Statistics Report, 2012)
  • Between 1960-2010, the number of cohabiting couples increased 17-fold. (The State of Our Unions 2011, 75)

For further research on the state of marriage in the U.S. and its impact on society, see:

W. Bradford Wilcox, The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2011 (University of Virginia National Marriage Project, Charlottesville, VA)

Casey Copen, Kimberly Daniels, Jonathan Vespa, and William Mosher, “First Marriages in the United States: Data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth,” National Health Statistics Report 49 (March 2012)

Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, The Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project (2011)

Paul R. Amato, “Marital Quality in African American Marriages,” National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (2011)

Theresa Notare and H. Richard McCord, “Marriage and Family in the United States: Resources for Society,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2012)

Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, (Broadway, 2001)

Scott Stanley, “Sliding vs Deciding” Blog

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