# 12.4B: Change in Marriage Rate

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Over the past three decades, marriage rates in the United States have increased for all racial and ethnic groups.

Learning Objectives

• Recognize changes in marriage patterns

## Key Points

• Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people, called spouses, that creates kinship.
• Marriage laws have changed over the course of United States history, including the removal of bans on interracial marriage.
• Of all racial categories considered by the U.S. Census, African-Americans have married the least.
• Of all racial categories considered by the U.S. Census, Hispanics have married the most.
• The average family income for married households is higher than the average family income of unmarried households. However, marriage rates have increased for poverty -stricken populations as well.

## Key Terms

• wedding: Marriage ceremony; a ritual officially celebrating the beginning of a marriage.
• Marriage Laws: The legal requirements that determine the validity of a marriage.

Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people, called spouses, that creates kinship. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but is usually an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. Such a union is often formalized through a wedding ceremony.

## Marriage Rates in the United States

Marriage laws have changed over the course of United States history, including the removal of bans on interracial marriage. In the twenty-first century, laws have been passed enabling same-sex marriages in several states. According to the United States Census Bureau, 2,077,000 marriages occurred in the United States in 2009. The median age for the first marriage of an American has increased in recent years; the median age in the early 1970s was 21 for women and 23 for men, and rose to 26 for women and 28 for men by 2009. As of 2006, 55.7% of Americans age 18 and over were married. According to the 2008-2010 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates, males over the age of 15 have married at a rate of 51.5%. Females over the age of 15 have married at a rate of 47.7%. The separation rate is 1.8% for males and 0.1% for females.

## Marriage Trends

African Americans have married the least of all of the major ethnic groups in the U.S., with a 29.9% marriage rate, but have the highest separation rate which is 4.5%. This results in a high percentage of single mother households among African Americans compared with other ethnic groups (White, African American, Native Americans, Asian, Hispanic). This can lead a child to become closer to his/her mother, the only caregiver. Yet one parent households are also more susceptible to economic difficulties. Native Americans have the second lowest marriage rate at 37.9%. Hispanics have a 45.1% marriage rate, with a 3.5% separation rate.

In the United States, the two ethnic groups with the highest marriage rates included Asians with 58.5%, and Whites with 52.9%. Asians have the lowest rate of divorce among the main groups with 1.8%. Whites, African Americans, and Native Americans have the highest rates of being widowed, ranging from 5%-6.5%. They also have the highest rates of divorce among the three, ranging from 11%-13%, with Native Americans having the highest divorce rate.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, the average family income is higher than previous years, at \$62,770. Nevertheless, the percentage of family households below the poverty line in 2011 was 15.1%, higher than in 2000 when it was 11.3%.

12.4B: Change in Marriage Rate is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.