👀 Boomers really love marriage 👀
Baby boomers are 75% more likely than Gen X, 168% more likely than millennials, and 394% more likely than Gen Z to say nothing is more important than marriage.
Are marriages truly on the decline? The short answer is yes. The national marriage rate has declined 60% over the last 50 years. Despite the decline, marriage is still a hot topic in American society, particularly on social media.
In a rapidly changing society, it's imperative to understand why marriage continues to hold significance. For many, marriage is a cornerstone of American society that provides stability to every household. However, there is an increasing number of Americans who view marriage as unnecessary for successful partnerships or just outright archaic.
While marriage rates decline, there are renewed debates surrounding marriage legality for same-sex and interracial couples, shaping the landscape of marriage discourse. Factors such as high inflation, escalating living costs, and an expensive real estate market contribute to the evolving narrative. As a result, financial stability is a primary purpose for marriage, as reported by 1 in 5 Americans (20%).
With so many different opinions on marriage, we surveyed 1,000 adult Americans about their views on marriage, their relationship deal breakers, and other topics related to the institution to dive into how the average American approaches marriage (or not).
Read on to learn more about how Americans feel about marriage in 2023.
|Key Marriage Statistics ⚭
To Wed or Not to Wed?
When it comes to the purpose of marriage, 73% of Americans believe it is primarily to prove commitment, highlighting the importance placed on long-term dedication.
Despite such a rosy reason, many people still view marriage as a wise financial decision. Nearly 2 in 3 married couples (66%) report improved finances after marriage. However, marrying for financial stability is not universal, and only half of married Americans (50%) experience increased savings.
Not everyone desires marriage, with 32% of unmarried Americans saying they don't want to get married. For those who do choose marriage, other motivations to tie the knot include showing love (67%), having children (29%), and seeking legal recognition (26%).
The data also reveals an intriguing trend regarding religious obligations: Millennials (16%) are 2x more likely than Gen Z (7%) to prioritize them. In fact, millennials cited this as a main purpose for marriage more than Gen X (14%) and even boomers (14%).
These differences suggest a generational shift in attitudes toward religious practices and commitments. The reasons for this shift may vary, but it could be attributed to the increasing prevalence of secularism and evolving cultural norms. Previous generations may not have felt obligated to marry because of religion if they were staunch believers and adherents. Millennials may have gotten caught in the shift toward secularism, while Gen Z feels more liberated from religion.
Nearly Half of Americans Think Mental Health Is More Important Than Marriage
Marriage is declining among Americans, in part, because they have several other, more important priorities. Nearly half of respondents (48%) ranked mental health as more important than marriage. More Americans are recognizing the importance of taking care of their mental well-being and focusing on maintaining good mental health.
Americans also ranked their physical health (44%), their personal growth (31%), their family (28%), and being debt-free (25%) over marriage.
About 1 in 5 Americans also value owning a home (20%), their friendships (20%), their job/career (19%), and their hobbies (19%) more than marriage.
Only 16% of Americans say marriage is more important than anything else.
Boomers Are Most Likely to Prioritize Marriage Before Anything Else
Boomers are 75% more likely than Gen X, 168% more likely than millennials, and 394% more likely than Gen Z to say nothing is more important than marriage. Younger generations typically view boomers as more traditional, and this observation confirms their perception of their elders.
Generational differences are evident in how people approach dating and marriage. The most common deal breakers among respondents are a partner who is rude to service workers (39%), having different views on children (30%), and having different lifestyles or hobbies (30%).
Boomers are 41% more likely than millennials to consider a partner who is rude to service workers as a deal breaker. On the other hand, Gen Z is 58% more likely than millennials to view rudeness to service workers as a dealbreaker. Additionally, Gen Z is 93% more likely than millennials to consider their friends not liking their partner as a dealbreaker.
In contrast, millennials are 52% more likely than boomers to be concerned if their partner's friends don't like them. This may indicate that millennials value harmony within their friend circles over how their partners treat strangers.
1 in 7 Married Americans Are Unhappy in Their Marriage
Although 86% of married couples report they're happy they got married, 1 in 7 couples (14%) express unhappiness with their marriage.
What's even more striking is that more than 1 in 10 Americans (11%) admit to not liking their spouse as a person. Additionally, 38% of couples report feeling obligated to stay married, while 19% describe their marriage as loveless. These figures paint a sobering picture of marital dynamics, as the highest percentage of respondents (24%) have been married for less than five years.
A decline in marriages also puts the wedding industry at risk. It's a $70 billion industry, but it’s expected to decline by nearly 1% in 2023 alone. That’s not terribly significant, but once the pandemic-induced bump in weddings subsides, Americans working in the industry may start to worry.
Weddings can be controversial, even among engaged couples, because of their potential to cost an arm and a leg. Survey respondents significantly underestimate the average cost of weddings, with most believing they fall within $10,000 to $15,000. However, the average wedding actually costs $30,000. Surprisingly, 5% of respondents report spending over $50,000 on their wedding.
About 65% of Americans express a willingness to elope and allocate the wedding budget toward a significant purchase, such as a house or a car. This reflects a shift in priorities and a pragmatic approach to finances compared to previous generations in which weddings were almost obligatory.
Gender Roles Still Exist, but Are They Enforced?
When it comes to household duties — an important aspect of marriage — women and men have different perceptions. Women are 177% more likely than men to say they do the majority of child care duties. However, men are 44% more likely to say they do an equal share.
Only 53% of respondents say they support traditional gender roles, and opinions on whether couples should have a joint bank account are similarly divided, with 46% in favor and 53% against. Many people may be against joint bank accounts because they value their financial independence. It's important to contextualize this with the fact that before the 1970s, women faced significant legal barriers to opening their own bank accounts.
It's also worth noting that women are 10% less likely than men to have control over household finances, reflecting persistent gender disparities in financial decision-making.
Cooking is still seen as a "woman’s job" by many people. However, millennials are 34% more likely than boomers to believe in equal sharing of cooking duties. This highlights a generational shift in attitudes toward household responsibilities.
I Do This More Often
We Equally Share
Take care of children
Pay bills/handle paperwork
Control the finances
When it comes to the reasons for not getting married, there are notable differences between men and women. Women are 120% more likely than men to attribute their decision to not wanting the stress of planning a wedding.
Women are also 111% more likely than men to say they haven't tied the knot because their partner isn't on the same page about marriage. Furthermore, women are 81% more likely than men to express a lack of support for the institution of marriage and 42% more likely to believe that marriage is limiting.
These findings emphasize the grim picture of marriage that many American women have. As married women carry most of the physical and emotional labor at home, it's no surprise that many women are turning away from marriage.
Women Are 65% More Likely Than Men to Say It's a Deal Breaker if Their Family Doesn't Like Their Partner
When it comes to marrying a potential partner, women seem to have more specific considerations. Women are 65% more likely than men to prioritize the approval of their family when deciding on a partner. Additionally, women are 53% more likely to consider a partner being rude to service workers as a deal breaker, highlighting the significance they place on kindness and respect.
Different views on pets are also a factor, with women being 50% more likely than men to see it as a potential dealbreaker. Furthermore, women are 39% more likely to take into account their friends' opinions about their partners.
Despite the challenges of marriage, many Americans still want to get married and are willing to end relationships if marriage is never on the table.
Men, on average, seem to be more lenient than women when it comes to how long they’re willing to date before marriage becomes a viable option. Men are 297% more likely than women to say that it would take seven years of a relationship to end it if their partner wasn't ready for marriage. Men are also 65% more likely to have a cutoff point of three years.
In contrast, women are 119% more likely to say they would consider ending the relationship after two years and 102% more likely to end the relationship after one year if marriage wasn’t on the horizon.
These findings indicate that women may have different expectations about the progression of a relationship, possibly because women experience more pressure from friends and family to get married than men.
Divorces Increase as Americans Remain Divided on Its Legality
The legality of no-fault divorces — divorces where neither spouse is required to prove the other did something wrong –— is no longer a given. Some state legislators in Louisiana recently made headlines by wanting to make no-fault divorces illegal. The idea is also gaining steam on social media. Banning no-fault divorces could lead to increased emotional distress, financial burdens, diminished autonomy, and social repercussions for ex-spouses.
We found that 67% of Americans support no-fault divorces, but a whopping one-third (33%) do not. Opponents of no-fault divorce may argue that banning it will actually preserve marriage, but taking it off the table may deter people from getting married at all.
Despite worries that the divorce rate is getting out of hand, divorced Americans seem to take marriage seriously. The majority of divorced Americans (68%) were married for more than five years before their divorce, and 12% were married for over 20 years before divorcing.
Infidelity Is the Top Reason for Divorce in America
About 37% of divorced Americans say infidelity led to their divorce, more than any other reason.
After infidelity, the most cited reasons for divorce are too many arguments (32%), falling out of love (27%), and abuse (25%). The latter is not only extremely disconcerting but also another example of a reason for divorce where someone can easily be found at fault.
Views on divorce are yet another area where the generations disagree. Boomers are 38% more likely than millennials to believe it's too easy to get divorced. Gen X, the generation right after boomers, is 132% more likely than boomers to report that they have considered divorce at some point. Younger generations just don’t feel as obligated to stay in unfulfilling — and potentially dangerous — marriages.
1 in 6 Americans Do Not Support Interracial Marriages
In 2023, it's surprising that only 83% of Americans support interracial marriages. Considering the progress made toward social equality and civil rights, the fact that 1 in 6 Americans in a population of over 257 million oppose such unions is concerning. It emphasizes the importance of continuing efforts to promote inclusivity and overcome prejudices.
In support of interracial marriage, 76% of respondents would marry someone of a different race.
Support for same-sex marriage stands at only 62%, revealing a significant disparity in societal attitudes. Following a trend toward tradition, boomers are 68% more likely than millennials to express opposition to both same-sex and interracial marriages.
Americans aren’t fully on board with interracial and same-sex marriages, and an even smaller percentage support polygamy and polyamorous relationships.
Just 27% of Americans support polygamy and polyamory. Many Americans associate polyamory with unethical polygamy or forced marriages. However, younger generations are warming up to nontraditional marriages, which are, in general, becoming more normalized.
At 42%, Gen Z is more likely than other generations to support polyamory. Just 15% of Gen X and 13% of boomers do. At 35%, millennials think more progressively about multiple marriages than older generations, but they're still not on par with Gen Z.
In terms of their own relationships, a significant percentage of respondents demonstrate an openness to differences in political and religious views. Specifically, 65% of participants would consider marrying someone with different political beliefs, and 64% of respondents would be willing to marry an individual with different religious views.
The Build-Up to 'I Do'
Although Americans are getting married at older ages than previous generations, they're still tying the knot relatively young — and quickly. The largest percentage of Americans (23%) say they got married between the ages of 25 and 29, and most couples tied the knot by at least the third-year mark in their relationship (64%).
Boomers are 55% more likely to have gotten married within one year or less of dating, suggesting a potentially quicker timeline for commitment. Younger generations tend to wait longer to get married.
More than one-third of respondents (36%) believe that the ideal time to get married is between one and two years, while only 4% consider less than six months acceptable. A small percentage (4%) believe that marriage should never be an option.
Only 30% of respondents say living together before marriage is important, but a majority of married Americans (65%) did cohabitate with their partners before getting married, a common trend amid increasing rent and home prices.
Surprisingly, 20% of respondents bought a home with their partner before getting married, and 54% of unmarried Americans would consider purchasing a home with their partner before tying the knot.
Americans Prefer Meeting Future Spouses Through Friends
Despite the increased popularity and normalization of dating apps, most Americans say they would ideally meet their future spouse through friends (24%). Surprisingly, ideally meeting future spouses out in public at places like a bar, concert, or coffee shop (23%), or at a religious service/event (13%) is even more common than wanting to meet on a dating app or online matchmaking service (6%). Just 2% of Americans ideally want to meet through an arranged marriage
Of Americans who are married, 23% said they met through friends, 14% through work, 13% while out in public, and 9% on a dating app. 11% of Americans marry people they met in primary or secondary school, with 9% of them meeting in high school.
Here's the full breakdown of how Americans actually met their spouse:
- Through friends: 23%
- At work: 14%
- A public place: 13%
- On a dating app: 9%
- In high school: 9%
- Online (e.g., social media, forum, etc.): 8%
- Something else: 8%
- In college/university: 8%
- At a religious service/event: 5%
- Through an arranged marriage: 2%
- In elementary school: 1%
- In middle school: 1%
9 in 10 Americans Say Love Is the Most Important Factor for Marriage
About 92% of married Americans say love was very important when deciding to wed, and 85% of unmarried Americans say love would be a very important factor in their decision to marry. For both groups, love is the most popular factor.
Most unmarried Americans also consider compatibility (77%) and physical attraction (53%) as important factors. On the other hand, tax breaks (14%), pressure from family (10%), and pressure from friends (8%) are considered the least important to them.
The good news for unmarried Americans who want to get married is that their top factors align with married Americans. After love, the top two factors for married Americans are also compatibility (76%) and physical attraction (62%).
Notably, Gen Z is 406% more likely than boomers to consider pressure from family as an important factor, indicating that younger generations may be more susceptible to social pressures than older generations.
1 in 5 Americans Would Marry for Money Reasons
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) would consider marrying someone solely for financial reasons. This aligns with the common perception that marriage can bring financial benefits, as argued by economists and sociologists who advocate for its preservation.
However, the financial aspect of marriage requires nuance. More than 1 in 4 respondents (28%) say a partner who has poor finances and debt is a potential deal breaker, while 65% consider it a definite dealbreaker.
Respondents say the maximum debt for a potential marriage partner to carry averages between $20,000 and $30,000, with the most common limit falling between $10,000 to $20,000. For their own sake, single adults should not accrue upward of $10,000 in non-mortgage and non-student-loan debt, no matter what potential suitors say.
Single Life Versus Married Life
Unmarried Americans don’t think their married counterparts have it better. Two-thirds of single adults (67%) are happy they’re not married.
Although 68% say they want to get married, only 43% actually think they will. Unmarried Americans have valid reasons for why they aren’t yet married. The top three responses are: they haven’t found the right person (38%), it’s not a priority (31%), and they enjoy their independence (24%). In fact, 54% don't think marriage would make them happier.
The prospect of marriage varies among partnered Americans. Among those in serious relationships, 31% believe they will tie the knot within the next two years.
For individuals not in serious relationships, 69% hope to eventually find a serious partner. Being in a serious relationship, however, does not necessarily imply that the involved parties ever wish to marry.
Married Americans Argue More than Unmarried Americans
Marriage doesn’t necessarily bring more peace. About 1 in 10 married couples (9%) argue with each other multiple times a week, whereas only 7% of single people say they argue with anyone multiple times a week. Just 10% of married couples say they never argue.
Unmarried adults are also more likely to socialize than their married counterparts. Nearly 1 in 5 married couples (19%) socialize without their partner multiple times a week, while 25% of unmarried individuals engage in regular socializing with friends.
One area where married couples may have it better, depending on your perspective, is regarding physical intimacy. About 35% of married couples, compared to 19% of unmarried individuals, have intimate encounters multiple times a week.
Just 5% of unmarried respondents say they scroll through dating apps daily, which is refreshing news for those worried that dating apps preoccupy most singles.
Both groups spend about the same amount of time taking care of their finances. Approximately 26% of married couples and 24% of unmarried individuals work on their budget and financial matters a few times a week.
For married couples, however, finances are a bit more complicated. More than half of married couples (54%) discuss finances at least once a week, but 7% never broach the topic. Worrisomely, 7% of married couples keep secrets from each other daily, and 22% have hidden financial information from their spouse at least once.
Are the Kids Alright?
Married individuals with children are more likely to view having children as a primary purpose of marriage, with 33% expressing this sentiment, compared to 25% of those without children.
Many Americans view marriage as the first step to having children, so it’s important to examine whether married and unmarried people are prioritizing having children at all. When it comes to children, our respondents reported the following:
- 57% have children
- 18% don't have children but want them
- 14% don't want children
- 11% are unsure about wanting children
The plurality of survey participants (36%) have two children. For those who want children but don't have them yet, two is the ideal number (51%).
It's a common perception that children add more stress to a marriage. Contrary to this, we found that married couples without children are not significantly less likely to argue than couples with children. Only 6% of married couples with children report arguing a couple of times a week, and just 8% of married couples with no children reported the same.
For those who never plan to have children, the most common reason is simply not wanting them (35%). After that, the most common reasons are: children are too much work (29%), children are too expensive (29%), and feeling like they wouldn’t be a good parent (27%).
Is Marriage Worth It?
About 40% of married Americans have regrets about their marriage. The top three regrets are: wishing they married someone they're more compatible with (30%), wishing they married someone better with money (24%), and marrying too young (23%).
It's worth noting that 91% of respondents say they married for love. However, as their marriages matured, they may have realized that marriage requires serious evaluation of other factors.
Despite the challenges, 35% of married Americans say their relationship is much better now that they're married. However, 9% say it's somewhat worse, and 8% say it's much worse.
Marriage is hard, and that’s why 50% of first marriages end in divorce. Forty-two percent of married Americans cite personal habits and pet peeves as the trigger for their disagreements, more than any other reason. The next most common reasons are finances (37%) and a lack of communication (35%).
Divorcees say that a lack of communication in their marriages led to disagreements more than any other reason (53%). The next most common cause was finances at 45%. Currently married couples report that 37% of them have had disagreements about finances. Notably, 1 in 6 (16%) say they got divorced because of money reasons.
Although 38% of married couples feel obligated to remain together, a notable percentage of respondents express reservations about the institution of marriage. One-fourth of all Americans (25%) view marriage as outdated, and 19% of unmarried individuals consider it too old-fashioned.
Yet 23% of Americans say they pity older people who have never married.
Americans are divided on the topic of marriage. As one of the most universal practices in the world, it's important to truly understand the motivations behind strongly supporting it and vehemently opposing it.
The proprietary data featured in this study comes from an online survey commissioned by Clever Real Estate. One thousand Americans were surveyed May 11-12, 2023. Each respondent answered up to 21 questions related to marriage.
Since 2017, Clever Real Estate has been on a mission to make selling or buying a home easier and more affordable for everyone. 12 million annual readers rely on Clever's library of educational content and data-driven research to make smarter real estate decisions, and to date, Clever has helped consumers save more than $160 million on Realtor fees. Clever's research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.
More Research from Clever
What percentage of marriages make it to 35 years?
Approximately 26% of marriages last over 30 years, according to The Hive Law. Of our divorced respondents, the largest percentage say they got divorced between one and five years of marriage (28%). Just 12% state they got divorced after 20 years.
What do single people do?
Single adults socialize with friends more frequently than any other activity, engaging daily (21%) or a few times a week (25%). Other common daily activities include reviewing finances (16%) and enjoying personal time at places like the gym or salon (17%). Only 5% of singles use dating apps daily.
Is there actually a marriage decline?
Yes, the marriage rate in the U.S. has decreased by 60% over the past 50 years. It seems that Americans are struggling to find "the one," with 38% saying that’s the reason they aren’t married yet. However, 14% of survey respondents state that they never want to get married.
Why do some people think marriage is bad?
Marriage is often associated with a loss of independence, socially and financially. About 5% of Americans say they’re not married because they find it limiting, and 9% say it’s because they’re afraid of commitment, which is valid. After all, many realize that divorce can be a painful experience.
How many high school couples get married?
According to our survey, 9% of Americans marry someone they met in high school. In total, 11% of Americans marry people they met in primary or secondary school.