NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 16, 2007

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

  • In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.
  • In 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time.

Several factors are driving the statistical shift.  At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods.  At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage.

In addition, marriage rates among black women remain low.  Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.

In a relatively small number of cases, the living arrangement is temporary, because the husbands are working out of town, are in the military or are institutionalized: 

  • Among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, according to the marital status category in the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey, 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.
  • That brings the number of American women actually living with a spouse to 57.5 million, compared with the 59.9 million who are single or whose husbands were not living at home when the survey was taken in 2005.

Source: Sam Roberts, "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse," New York Times, January 16, 2007.

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