WASHINGTON — The percentage of Americans in their early 30s who have not yet married has more than doubled since 1970, and it appears that a growing minority will be single all of their lives, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
Men between the ages of 30 and 34 who had never married accounted for 23.1% of males in that age group, according to estimates made last March. The figure was 9.4% in a 1970 Census Bureau report.
Among women in that age group, 14.6% had not yet married, according to the 1987 report. The percentage was 6.2% in 1970.
In other age groups, 61% of women between 20 and 24 had not been married as of 1987, up from 36% in 1970. Among women 25 to 29, 29% had not been married in 1987, against 11% in 1970.
Of men ages 20 to 24, 78% had not been married as of this year, compared with 55% in 1970. Among men in the 25-to-29 age group, 42% had never married, compared with 19% of that group in 1970.
"The percentage that remain single throughout their lifetime is likely to be higher than in the past, in view of the increases in never-marrieds among today's young adults," the report said. "The vast majority, however, eventually are likely to marry."
Steve Rawlings of the Census Bureau said that historically, all but 5% of Americans have been married at least once by the time they are 50. He said that proportion is likely to double, to 10%, based on trends to marrying later in life observed over the past two decades.
"There has been quite a significant increase in the number of people who have never married in their 20s and early 30s," Rawlings said. "Our best guess is that something on the order of 10% will never marry."
In 1987, the median age of brides was 23.6 years, compared with age 20.3 in 1950. The median figure means that half the women have married by this age. The 1987 figure reflected the highest median age since records were begun in 1890.
The median age among men marrying for the first time rose to 25.8 this year, and is the highest since 1900, when it was 25.9 years.
The median age at the time of first marriage had been declining for most of this century, until the 1960s. It started to rise as members of the post-war generation postponed marriage and family obligations to pursue educations and begin careers.