WASHINGTON — Forty percent of newlyweds are previously married or widowed people tying the knot for the second time, a phenomenon driven by an aging society where traditional patterns of marriage have shifted dramatically in recent decades, a new report says.
The report on remarriage, released Friday by the Pew Research Center, also confirmed the longstanding perception that remarried men are far more likely than remarried women to have a spouse at least 10 years younger.
And it captured a sharp disparity in the way men and women view marriages: most men are eager to marry a second time, while most women say one time was enough.
The findings offer a striking glimpse at the flip side of marriage’s long decline in the United States. With cohabitation on the rise, divorce more common, and many people delaying marriage until they’re older, only 70 percent of adults now say they had been married at some point in their lives, compared with 85 percent in 1960. But because of the huge demographic bulge of Baby Boomers, there are now more people who are divorced or widowed and are once again looking for love inside the bonds of marriage.
“We’re not seeing an outbreak in remarriage fever. We’re seeing an increase in the number of people who are in a position to remarry,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. “What’s happened is that the share of the population that’s divorced has risen greatly. In particular, the baby boomer generation — which experienced more divorce than any generation in history– is now in their 50s and 60s. They’ve lived long enough, and there are now more of them to get remarried.”
Galina Rhoades, a psychology professor at the University of Denver, said the report shows that the aftershocks of the 1960s Sexual Revolution continue to reverberate through American culture.
“A lot of these trends are related to big shifts we had in the 1960s. That really changed how relationships function,” Rhoades said.
The report is based on an analysis of the Census Bureau’s newly-released 2013 American Community Survey, along with data from the 1960 and 1980 censuses, of people who were divorced or widowed at least once.
The Pew analysis did not include data on same-sex marriages, which only became available for the first time last year and is limited in scope.
Pew’s report says 42 million adults remarried in 2013, up from 22 million in 1980.
Among married couples today, 23 percent had been married before compared with 13 percent in 1960. It found that 8 percent of newlyweds in 2013 had been married three times or more. It also found that 20 percent of all marriages in 2013 involved spouses who had both been previously married.