Interactive Map: Ringing of Wedding Bells Heard Less Often in Garden State

As trend continues, more than one-half of NJ residents and more than two-thirds in 20-34 age bracket are not married

For young New Jerseyans, like others across the United States, marriage doesn’t seem to be as important as it was for their parents and grandparents.

Between the mid-1940s and late 1970s, men typically got married before the age of 24, while women were often 20 or 21. In New Jersey in 2012, fewer than one-third of all adults age 20-34 had ever been married, according to data from the US Census Bureau. That’s significantly less than in 2000, when almost half had been married by age 34.

This has led to a drop in the total number of people who are married. According to the Census data, just 49.2 percent of all New Jerseyans age 15 or older were married in 2012.

The number of married people in New Jersey dropped below half for the first time in 2009. In 2000, 57 percent of all those age 15 and older were married.

The decline in marriage, particularly among younger adults, is a national and international trend that many attribute to changes in society and culture during the last half-century. In the United States, at least, many of these changes are female-centered — women going to college, women in the workforce, women earning enough money to not need to be married.

In addition, the old taboos against those living together without being married have almost completely disappeared. Some have speculated that very recent drops in the marriage number are due in part to the continuing effects of the most recent recession.

Surveys have been sending somewhat mixed messages on the status of marriage in America.

A [link:|
Gallup poll] last summer found fewer people – compared to a survey in 2006 — think it is somewhat important or very important to get married if two people want to spend their lives together or if they want to have children.

But the vast majority of those surveyed who were not married said they wanted to marry but had not yet because they had not met the right person, were too young, or were being held back by financial considerations.

“Regardless of age, Americans are much more positive about marriage than not, as the majority of all age groups are married or want to get married someday,” according to the Gallup poll’s authors. “Fewer than one in 10 young Americans have never married and say they do not want to get married. These findings indicate that there is a significant desire for marriage even as the overall marriage rate has dropped in recent years.

“On the other hand, Americans’ views of the importance of being married when two people want to spend their lives together or have a child has declined in recent years,” the poll’s authors continued. “Thus, while most younger Americans who have never married express an attitudinal interest in eventually doing so, fewer hold the underlying attitude that such an action is important.”

A [link:|2010 Pew Research Center survey found almost 4 in 10 Americans stating that marriage is becoming obsolete, yet 61 percent of those who had never been married said they wanted to and another 27 percent said they were not sure.

In New Jersey, the drop in the percentage of people who are married and the rise in the percentage of those who have never married appear to cross all races and ethnicities, and holds true for immigrants as well as native-born Americans.

Geographically, people are most likely to be, or have been, married in Ocean County and the northwestern-most counties. Those in the more urbanized northeastern counties of Hudson, Essex and Passaic, as well as Cumberland in South Jersey, are more likely to be lifelong singles.