State of U.S. Marriage

Although several measures of the health of marriage in the United States have declined sharply since 1970, there are some signs of improvement this decade, according to a new “marriage index.” The index, released on Oct. 2 and produced by the New York-based Institute for American Values and the National Center on African-American Marriages and Parenting at Hampton University in Virginia, assesses the strength of marriage by using five indicators: the percentage of people ages 20 to 54 who are married; the percentage of married adults who describe themselves as “very happy” in their marriages; the percentage of intact first marriages among married people ages 20 to 59; the percentage of births to married parents; and the percentage of children living with their own married parents. The combined score for the five “leading marriage indicators” dropped from 76.2 percent in 1970 to 60.3 percent in 2008, according to the index. But since 2000 there have been small gains in the percentage of intact first marriages (from 59.9 percent to 61.2 percent) and the percentage of children living with married parents (60.5 percent to 61 percent).

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