Rising Share of U.S. Adults Are Living Without a Spouse or Partner

  1. The analysis focuses on adults ages 25 to 54, who are prime working age, and the economic and labor market outcomes of these adults. By age 25, most adults have completed their formal schooling. Older adults withdraw from the labor force at different ages. The age at which adults are expected to be employed is subjective, but labor economists often focus on the labor market attachment of 25- to 54-year-olds. 
  2. The 1990 decennial census was the first that distinguished unmarried partners of the head of household from roommates. 
  3. Census data dating back to 1880 indicates that the proportion of 25- to 54-year-olds who were married peaked at 83% in 1960. 
  4. The medians are estimated based on adults who had positive earnings over the year. Unpartnered adults tend to be younger than partnered adults. Some of the earnings gap reflects this age difference. But sizable earnings gaps are evident among narrower age ranges, such as 25- to 39-year-olds. 
  5. See, for example, a recent Pew Research Center analysis, as well as Bell, Burtless, Gornick and Smeeding (2007) and Sironi and Furstenberg (2012). 
  6. The employment decline does not reflect cyclical factors. Both the 1990 decennial census and 2019 American Community Survey were collected at business cycle peaks. 

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