In a report on changing family patterns, “51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse,” by Sam Roberts, The New York Times reported that:

In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

They also report another historic shift based on the 2005 data:

married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time.

Further, the report quotes Stephanie Coontz as saying:

But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.

All three of these pieces of information point in the same direction: the understandings of what families are or how families should look have shifted from singular vision of the stereotypical isolated nuclear family to a multiplex vision of varieties of family forms. The article also includes quotes from a variety of women who express their views on marriage, advantages of singleness, and more.

One of the places where the percentage of women who are married declined most was among younger women:

Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent.

This fits with the trend of rising age for both women and men of first marriage and is tied to the growing expectation of completing college (or more) and getting established in a career. As Elissa B. Terris, 59, reports:

‘Marriage kind of aged me because there weren’t options. . . . There was only one way to go. Now I have choices.

The article was posted January 16, 2007.