Marriage is increasingly optional and could be on its way to obsolescence,according to a survey of more than 2,600 Americans that examines changing attitudes about relationships today.
Among the 2,691 adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center last month, 39% say marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% who responded to the same question posed in 1978 by Time magazine, which participated in the survey.
Census data reflect a declining percentage of married adults: 54% in 2010, down from 57% in 2000 and 72% in 1960.
At the same time, the median age at first marriage increased in 2010 to its highest ever — 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women, according to Census. That's up from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000. Among those ages 25-34, the percentage of those who are married fell below unmarrieds for the first time in more than a century.
Marriage is still the norm for college grads (64%) but less so for those with no college (48%). Blacks are much less likely to be married (32%) than whites (56%), the report finds.
Cohabitation has nearly doubled since 1990. Pew found 44% of adults (and more than half ages 30-49) have cohabited. Among these, 64% say they considered it a step toward marriage.