Lowest U.S. Marriage Level on Record—Why?

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted May 11, 2020

America is seeing its lowest rate of marriage—ever.

According to an April 29 report in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. marriage rate fell 6 [percent] in 2018, with 6.5 new [marriages] formed for every 1,000 people, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics.” The article says this is the lowest rate the federal government has recorded since it began keeping records in 1867.

“This Is Historic”

“Millennials are in peak marriage years, their 20s and 30s, and it’s still dropping,” statistician Sally Curtin said of the decline. “This is historic,” she told the newspaper.

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center report, “Over the past few decades, marriage rates have declined, particularly among younger Americans. Today, 18 [percent] of adults younger than 30 are married, compared with 31 [percent] in 1995.” Marriage rates, which jumped after the end of World War II some 75 years ago, “began a near-steady decline in 1982 that lasted until 2009, then remained near flat before inching upward in 2014,” the Journal corroborated.

Simultaneously, the rate of cohabitation, living together out of wedlock, has risen. Seven percent of Americans lived with a “partner” in 2019, up from one percent in 1970. “Among adult ages 18 to 44, the share who have ever cohabited (59 [percent]) is now larger than the share who have ever been married (50 [percent]),” the Pew study learned. The contrast is even more apparent among young adults, 18 to 29 years: They “are almost twice as likely to have cohabited as they are to have married (44 [percent] vs. 23 [percent]).”

According to a New York Post commentary, “A recent study found that 43 percent of millennials supported a form of marriage that allowed couples to easily split up after two years, while a full third were open to ‘marriage licenses’ valid—like mortgages—for set periods of time. It’s an impressive figure, especially when you consider just a third of respondents still believe that marriage is ‘till death do us part.’”

Indeed, popularized since the mid-90s is the “starter marriage,” defined as a union that lasts five years or fewer and doesn’t involve having children.

The changes are surprising on many levels. Research shows that married people live longer, live healthier, and do better economically. So why wouldn’t people want to get married?

The Journal cites “strained finances” as a major reason. Today’s “social distancing” under the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic have also inhibited wedding celebrations.

A decline in religious affiliation and practice is—not surprisingly—also a factor.

How Did We Get Here?

What would the world be like today had more people kept their Christian faith?

It is interesting that the practice of both the ordinances established at the creation of our world have since rapidly declined: the seventh-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:1, 2) and, more recently, the institution of marriage. In Genesis 2:18–23, we read how God determined to make “a helper comparable to” Adam, created Eve from one of his ribs, and united the first man and the first woman together in marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).

In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirmed this. Speaking to the Pharisees, He said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4–6). 

And the apostle Paul further declared, “Marriage is honorable among all” (Hebrews 13:4).

Clearly, the Bible is in support of a loving, committed marriage between one man and one woman. While people often point to instances of polygamy in Old Testament times as proof that God’s definition of marriage is not so strict, Scripture is nonetheless undeniable on the matter: God never sanctioned polygamy, just as He never condoned fornication.

And as much as the current pandemic is a sign of the last days, so is the world’s casual treatment of marriage. Jesus predicted, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were … marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:37, 38). It is no coincidence that as we near the end of time, the ordinances that remind us and intrinsically tie us to God as our Creator have been warped.

But marriage is not a passing trend. It is not some outdated experiment. There is a reason why God planned for people to experience it in this life. Discover what that reason is in Pastor Doug Batchelor’s presentation, “The Great Wedding Feast.”

Without a doubt, even in this day and age, a godly marriage is still relevant and still a reality. Pastor Doug shared “Proven Secrets for a Healthy Marriage” in a video sermon available online.

Buck the trend against marriage. If you’re single, ask God for help in finding a Christian mate. If you’re married, commit before God to seek His help in making your home happier and more Christ-centered!

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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