Fewer and Fewer Taking the Plunge

News: US News
by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 30, 2020   

Marriage in America on life support

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HYATTSVILLE, Md. (ChurchMilitant) - The rate of U.S. marriages has reached a 153-year low, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published this week.

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The US marriage rate peaked after WW2 (WSJ)

In 2018, the most recent year for which figures are available, Americans married at a rate of 6.5 new unions for every 1,000 people — the lowest rate since 1867, when marriage statistics first began to be recorded. Compare that rate with a high of 16.4 marriages per 1,000 people in 1946 following World War II.

Officials with the NCHS say marriage rates correlate strongly with economic prosperity and cultural values. For example, there was a sharp decline in marriage during the Great Depression, when marriage and family life were strongly valued.

From its high in 1946, there was a steep and steady decline in marriage rates during the prosperous 1950s and 1960s, then a brief uptick in the 1970s, followed by a 30-year plunge to the lowest level ever in 2018.

Health officials expect the trend to continue and grow steeper owing to dramatic economic and social disruptions caused by the Wuhan virus. But there is also hope that the pandemic is creating pent-up demand, leading to a rush of couples to the altar.

Marriage Decline and Contraception

One factor not generally recognized as a contributor to marriage's decline is contraception. The first oral contraceptive was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960.

The introduction of the birth control pill in 1960 ignited something not seen in the West since pagan times: Sex became recreational, and by the mid-1960s, the sexual revolution was fully underway.


The first noticeable change was that fornication began to flourish. Sex could be had without the challenges of lasting relationship.

  • In 1960, 72% of U.S. adults were married, but by 2016, that figure had fallen to just half.
  • In 1960, 8% of women and 10% of men age 25 and over had never married. In 2012, the figures were 17% for women and 23% for men.
  • In 1960, the median age for first marriage was 20.3 for women and 22.8 for men. In 2016, it had risen to 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men.
  • Beginning in the 1960s, the U.S. divorce rate began to spike. Today, it's hovering around the 50-percent mark.

Not Just in the USA

Collapsing marriages are not just an American or even Western phenomenon. A widely-known case of decline is Japan, where the annual number of marriages has dropped since the early 1970s, while divorces have shown a general upward trend. The marriage decline is also a contributing factor to the nation's imploding birth rate.

Solo sex has become the preferred method of sexual pleasure.

In Japan, it is not just the rate of marriage that is declining, sex between couples is declining. Some say the decline in sex is because young men can't find steady employment. These analyses overlook Japan's love affair with pornography; According to Pornhub, the largest pornographic video-sharing platform in the world, Japan ranks second in the list of countries that most visit the site, just after the United States. Solo sex has become a preferred method of sexual pleasure.

Marriage: Inoculation Against Poverty, Sickness

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Dr. Bradford Wilcox

Doctor Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has identified factors that, if followed in the proper order, create the best chance for avoiding poverty.

His research indicates that if individuals graduate from high school, get a full-time job, get married (and stay married), and then have their children their chances for stability and prosperity, both for themselves and their children, greatly increases. He calls his formula the "success sequence" to reduce child poverty.

The NCHS tracks marriage statistics because it is widely known that married couples tend to be healthier than single individuals. In addition to living longer, Harvard Health Publishing notes married couples have fewer strokes and heart attacks; have a lower chance of becoming depressed; are less likely to have advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis and more likely to survive cancer for a longer period of time; and survive a major operation more often.

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