A recent report from the Pew Research Centre has shed light on the increasing number of 40-year-olds in the United States who have never been married. According to the 2021 US Census Bureau data, a quarter of individuals in this age group have not tied the knot, marking a significant increase from the 20% reported in 2010.


Interestingly, the study reveals that 40-year-old men are more likely to be unmarried compared to women, and Black 40-year-olds are notably more likely to have never wed than their peers of different racial backgrounds. Moreover, the report indicates that individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to remain single compared to those with lower levels of educational attainment.


In 1980, the statistics painted a different picture, with only 6% of 40-year-olds having never married. This stark contrast highlights a shifting perspective among Americans regarding the importance of marriage. Pew’s analysis spans over a century, from 1850 to 2021, showcasing the evolving marriage rates among 40-year-olds in the US.


The data reveals a growing trend of delayed marriage or even a decision to forgo it entirely, particularly among individuals born during or after the 1960s. Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, explains that this focus on 40-year-olds aligns with the notion that adults often reflect on their lives as they enter a new decade.


While acknowledging that this mindset is evolving, Fry points out the connection between marriage and fertility. Some women may still desire to have children within the context of marriage, and since fertility declines after the age of 40, documenting marriage outcomes at this age is deemed relevant.


Pew’s report also indicates that about 25% of 40-year-olds who were unmarried in 2001 had subsequently married by the time they turned 60. If this pattern continues, the research center predicts that a similar proportion of never-married 40-year-olds will also enter into matrimony in the coming years.


As society explores new ways of forming committed relationships, Pew aims to monitor the experiences of today’s 40-year-olds who find themselves navigating uncharted territory. The University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project further adds to this narrative, reporting a significant increase in the median age of first marriages over the past five decades.


While marrying later in life has become more common, it does not necessarily guarantee a better marriage. The report reveals that 81% of husbands who married earlier expressed satisfaction in their marriages, compared to 71% of those who married at a later stage. A similar pattern emerges among women, albeit with a smaller difference.


As the landscape of marriage continues to evolve, it is evident that the traditional notion of settling down by the age of 40 is shifting. The rise in unmarried 40-year-olds signifies changing attitudes and preferences, emphasizing the need to understand and adapt to the dynamics of modern relationships.