Studies Show Catholic Trends in Marriage Mirror Society's

By O'Brien, Nancy Frazier | National Catholic Reporter, January 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

Studies Show Catholic Trends in Marriage Mirror Society's


O'Brien, Nancy Frazier, National Catholic Reporter


WASHINGTON * With cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood on the rise, the percentage of Americans who are currently married has reached an all-time low.

A new report from the Pew Research Center analyzing Census Bureau data found that only 51 percent of Americans 18 and over were married in 2010, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Among Hispanics and African-Americans, the decline is even steeper.

"If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years," said the report by Pew senior writer D'Vera Cohn, senior demographer Jeffrey S. Passel and research associate Wendy Wang.

Like the number of marriages among Americans in general, the number of marriages performed in the Catholic church has been in decline over the past few decades.

"Since 1972, the number of marriages celebrated in a Catholic church has fallen nearly 60 percent" in the U.S., said Sheila Garcia, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, citing a study conducted for the secretariat by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington and released in 2008.

In 1972, there were 8.6 marriages in the church per 1,000 Catholics, but last year the figure was 2.6 church marriages for every 1,000 Catholics, she said.

The 2008 CARA report found that 53 percent of adult Catholics in the U.S. were married, 25 percent had never married, 12 percent were divorced, 5 percent widowed, 4 percent living with a partner and 1 percent separated from their spouse.

The Pew study found that 55 percent of white Americans were married in 2010, down from 74 percent 50 years earlier. But among Hispanics and blacks, married people are already in the minority. Forty-eight percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of African-Americans were married in 2010, com pared with 72 percent and 61 percent, respectively, in 1960.

The Pew authors said it was "beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why marriage has declined," but they noted that its popularity has fallen less sharply among college graduates. …

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