(Pew Research Center)
(Pew Research Center)

Odd Valentine’s Day message: Fewer people are getting married.

According to the Pew Research Center, only half of U.S. adults today are wed, down from 72 percent in 1960.

The trend has hit the church in the past few decades. The Archdiocese of Portland sees only half the number of annual marriages it saw in 2000. 

Pew researchers offer several explanations. First, people get married later in life. In 2016, the median age for a first marriage was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men – about seven years more than the median ages in 1960 (20.3 for women and 22.8 for men).

Second, more adults are living with a partner instead of marrying, even if they have children.

In a new trend, Pew research shows that the more education Americans receive, the more likely they are to wed. In 2015, among adults ages 25 and older, 65 percent with a four-year college degree were married, compared with 55 percent of those with some college education and 50 percent among those with no education beyond high school. In 1990, the rates were above 60 percent in all three groups.

Among adults who have never been married, 58 percent say they would like to get married someday and 27 percent are not sure if they want to get married. A majority of never-married adults say they haven’t found the right person, but many also cite finances.

For young adults who have never been married, not being financially stable and not being ready to settle down loom large as reasons why they are not married. Roughly half of never-married adults ages 18 to 29 (51 percent) say not being financially stable is a major reason they are not married, compared with 27 percent of those ages 30 to 49 and 29 percent of those 50 and older.

For unmarried adults who have previously been married, tying the knot again holds less appeal, researchers found. Only about a quarter of unmarried adults who have previously been married say they would like to marry again.

Pew says the marriage trends have important implications for the economic well-being of U.S. adults, as research has shown the financial benefits of marriage. Other studies show that marriage also contributes to happiness.

“Because people are choosing not to wed and too often those marriages end in divorce, the church needs to cheer on marriages because it is fulfilling, even in the difficult times,” said Jason Kidd, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Marriage and Family Life. “For those of us in the married vocation, we need to take it seriously. When is the last time that we have had regular dates with our spouse? When have we sought wisdom and support in the midst of some of the messiness?”

Kidd said that many Catholic parishes are seeing renewal in married life by bringing couples together in small faith communities. Parishes report that the groups provide encouragement, support and accountability through ups and downs.