The U.S. marriage rate is lower than at any point in over a century, with only 6.5 unions per 1,000 people, a government statistics agency reported Wednesday.
The National Center for Health Statistics’ National Vital Statistics System, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said data for 2018, the most recent year analyzed, showed a decline from 6.9 marriages per 1,000 people in 2017. The 2018 figure is the lowest rate since the federal government began collecting data in 1867.
“Millennials [referring to those born between roughly 1980 and 1996] are in peak marriage years, their 20s and 30s, and it’s still dropping,” said Sally Curtin, the report’s lead author. “This is historic.”
Historically, the U.S. marriage rate has seen significant fluctuation, the NCHS noted. The rates ranged between 9.3 marriages per 1,000 and 12.0 per 1,000 from 1900 to 1929 before declining to 7.9 per thousand in 1932. It more than doubled between 1932 and 1946, the era of the Great Depression and World War II, and reached an all-time high of 16.4 per 1,000. It declined in the 1950s, increased in the 1960s and then reached 10.9 per thousand in 1972. From 1982 to 2009, marriage rates almost steadily declined, before stabilizing from 2009 to 2017 at a range between 6.8 and 7.0 per 1,000.
Statistics were compiled by the NVSS from local sources which submitted their data to the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program, which the CDC says “provides the most complete data on births and deaths in the United States” and “provides information on issues related to the contractual relationship between each state.”