Calling it “one of the most noticeable changes in marital patterns,” a Census Bureau report released yesterday cites the strong trend evidenced over the past quarter century indicating that millions of American women are choosing to delay marriage. In 1986, about 26 percent of women aged 25 to 29 had never been married. In 2009, that number stood at 47 percent, nearly double the earlier figure. The trend was also similar for women of older age groups.

A similarly dramatic shift has not happened concerning divorce, with the Census Bureau reporting that first-marriage divorces generally occur at about the eight-year mark, a relative constant that has extended from earlier measuring periods.

The government also reports that Americans are with increasing frequency sampling live-together periods presently than in times past prior to making a decision regarding marriage. Fifty years ago, that was seldom the case, and the median age for both sexes marrying for the first time was considerably lower. In 1950, it was 23 for men and 20 for women. Today, the median age has jumped to 28 for men and 26 for women.

A few more facts unearthed in the study include these: On average, the youngest brides are Hispanic, with the oldest first-marriage brides being black women. Marriage overall is lasting longer than in previous times, with about 55 percent of married couples having been wed for more than 15 years. And about 75 percent of all married couples are still in their first marriage.

Related Resource: Bloomberg, “American Couples Get ‘More Selective'” May 18, 2011