Carol Morello, Washington Post, May 18, 2011
Americans may be postponing marriage, and fewer are wedding at all. But what about the people who do get married? They’re staying together longer than they have in years.
Three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary, according to census statistics reported Wednesday. That was a rise of three percentage points compared with couples who married in the early 1980s, when the nation’s divorce rate was at its highest.
One reason for the increase, said demographers and sociologists who study families, is that people are marrying later in life, after they have completed their education. Not only are they more mature, but they also are more financially secure.
Researchers increasingly are finding a connection between marriage and education. In 2009, 31 percent of brides had a college degree, up from 21 percent in 1996.
The Marriage Project has found that people without a college degree are three times as likely to divorce in the first 10 years as those with a college degree.
Most Americans marry once and stick to it.
According to the census statistics, more than half of the nation’s married couples have been together at least 15 years. About a third have marked their 25th anniversaries, and 6 percent have been married more than 50 years.
Nationwide, divorce rates have leveled off since peaking in the 1980s. Roughly four in 10 marriages end in divorce. But the rate varies significantly among different races and ethnicities.
Among black women, half of first marriages end in divorce, a rate that is far greater those for white, Hispanic and Asian women.
As with divorce, marriage rates vary with race and ethnicity. Seven out of 10 black women in their 20s have never married, a dramatic increase from the mid-1980s.
Census demographers noted that the percentage of never-married black women 55 and older rose to 13 percent in 2009. The magnitude of the change suggests that many more black women than white women will never marry, the report said.
The census also showed that a higher proportion of people who have married recently are Hispanic, which is the fastest-growing minority group in the country. In 1996, about one in 10 recently married adults was Hispanic. By 2009, it had increased to one in five.