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The rising trend of never-married 40-year-olds in the United States

By Lee Cleveland - July 13, 2023

Reaching the age of 40 without getting married has become increasingly common in the United States. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, approximately 25% of 40-year-olds in the country have never tied the knot.

Conversely, in 1980 just 6% of 40-year-olds had never been married. 

And while some never-married 40-year-olds are living with a romantic partner, the vast majority are not. In 2022, just 22% of never-married adults ages 40 to 44 were cohabiting.

Gender Disparity

The research indicates that 40-year-old men are more likely to have never been married compared to women of the same age group. While the report does not delve into the specific reasons for this gender disparity, it highlights the existence of a notable difference in marriage rates between men and women as they approach their 40s.

Racial Disparities

The study also reveals significant racial disparities among 40-year-olds who have never wed.

Black individuals in this age group are reported to be “much more likely” to have never been married compared to their peers from other racial backgrounds.

Courtesy Pew Research

This finding highlights the intersection of race and marital status, suggesting that cultural, social, and historical factors may play a role in shaping these disparities.

Education and Marriage

Education emerges as another influential factor affecting marriage rates among 40-year-olds. The report indicates that individuals without at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely to have never been married compared to those with higher levels of education. This correlation suggests that educational attainment may impact individuals’ life choices, including their decision to marry.

Historical Perspective

Examining the changes in marriage rates among 40-year-olds over time provides valuable insights. The study spans a time period from 1850 to 2021, showcasing the evolution of societal norms and attitudes towards marriage. Understanding historical trends allows us to contextualize the current rise in unmarried 40-year-olds and consider the broader factors shaping relationship dynamics in contemporary society.

Social and Cultural Shifts

Several social and cultural shifts contribute to the increasing number of unmarried 40-year-olds. Changing gender roles, economic factors, and evolving societal expectations around marriage and relationships have all played a part in reshaping individuals’ choices regarding marriage. The focus on personal and professional aspirations, delayed milestones, and the rise of cohabitation as an alternative to marriage are some of the factors influencing this trend.

Personal Choice and Autonomy

It is crucial to recognize that the rise in unmarried 40-year-olds also reflects an increasing emphasis on personal choice and autonomy.

Many individuals today prioritize personal growth, career advancement, and self-discovery before committing to marriage.

The recognition and acceptance of diverse relationship paths contribute to a more inclusive and varied landscape of relationships in society.


The Pew Research Center’s report sheds light on the growing trend of unmarried 40-year-olds in the United States. The findings underscore the influence of various factors, such as gender disparities, racial disparities, educational attainment, and societal shifts, on marriage rates.

As society continues to evolve, embracing diverse relationship choices and understanding the underlying factors shaping these choices is essential to fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of relationships in contemporary America.