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Most never married US adults hope to get married someday, despite culture shift: poll

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Unsplash/Scott Webb

Though they are less inclined now than in recent years to see marriage as critical for couples who have children together or plan to spend the rest of their lives together, most adults who have never been married still desire to legally tie the knot someday, results of a new Gallup poll has found.

The data from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-13 and published Monday, shows that 81% of Americans who have never experienced married life still wish to do so one day, despite changing attitudes toward the institution.

The desire among never-married Americans shows a slight increase over 78% of the cohort who expressed a similar sentiment in 2013 when the question was last polled.

It also persists in the face of data released earlier this year showing the U.S. marriage rate reaching its lowest point in more than 100 years.

Recent trends tracked by Gallup show that since 2015, less than 50% of U.S. adults are married, sliding over the years from a consistent 64% between 1978 and 1983.

“Solid majorities of Americans now view sex between an unmarried man and woman, same-sex relations, and having a baby outside of marriage as being morally acceptable,” the researchers concluded. “While the marriage rate is declining, the desire of those who have never been married to get married someday remains high, with more than eight in 10 singles hoping to marry. Thus, their evolving attitudes about marriage may reflect increasing acceptance for how others lead their lives rather than a profound shift in their own lifestyle preferences.”

Recent research also highlighted how a variety of economic factors might have also contributed to the shifting attitudes toward marriage, which is increasingly becoming a symbol of wealth.

In Mismatches in the Marriage Market, researchers Daniel T. Lichter of Cornell University, Joseph P. Price of Brigham Young University, and Jeffrey M. Swigert of Southern Utah University found that many successful women were also being forced to choose to remain unmarried or settle for men who earn less than $53,000 and lack a college degree.

University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen, who authored The Coming Divorce Decline, also noted in an earlier report that marriage is becoming more of an “achievement of status” for those who choose it.

“Marriage is become more selective, and more stable, even as attitudes toward divorce are becoming more permissive, and cohabitation has grown less stable. The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality,” Cohen said.

Marriage has been shown to positively impact society in health outcomes, longevity and economic security.

In 2013, for example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that married cancer patients are more likely to live longer than those who are unmarried.

"Even after adjusting for known confounders, unmarried patients are at significantly higher risk of presentation with metastatic cancer, under treatment, and death resulting from their cancer," researchers concluded.

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