More American women are living single than with a spouse, a recent census found.
Experts say this is probably the first time that married couples have become a minority of all American households. Women living without a spouse were at 51 percent in 2005, up from 35 percent in 1950.
"This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives,” said Prof. Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group, according to The New York Times. "Most of these women will marry, or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.”
Traditional marriage advocate Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council, however, believes the study used "faulty methods."
Perkins noted that the Times defined "woman" as anyone over the age of 15, those who are legally separated, and anyone whose husband is not living at home, including soldiers on deployment in Iraq.
The Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey revealed that among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, 63 million are married. Of those, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another. This leaves the number of women living with a spouse at 57.5 million.
The survey noted that some of the situations where the spouse is absent are just temporary.
Nevertheless, the study outlined a social trend among women who are opting to marry later or cohabit rather than marry or remarry.
The proportion of married women aged 15 to 24 years plummeted from 42 percent in 1950 to 16 percent in 2000. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent.
Perkins said the main purpose of the study is to "suggest that marriage is becoming increasingly irrelevant in society and women are better off without it," according to One News Now.
"I’m in a place in my life where I’m comfortable," Carol Crenshaw, 57, who divorced in 2005 after 33 years of marriage, told the Times. "I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. I was a wife and a mother. I don’t feel like I need to do that again."
Perkins, on the other hand, drew attention to other research that describes married women as happier.
"Research shows that adults are safer, happier, healthier, and wealthier in faithful, lifelong unions," he said. "In other words, if there is an anti-marriage trend afoot, a body of evidence demonstrates that it does not work to the benefit of women."
The national survey noted that married men and those living with their spouse still outnumber single men, 53 percent to 49 percent.