The number of American women married as of 1998 between the ages of 35 and 44 is at an all time low of 67%, compared to 80% of married women registered in 1940. This trend of declining marriage rates isn't limited to the United States, but is seemingly creating a worldwide pattern of its own.
The causes of the trend for fewer women being married nowadays than in an earlier period resides in the rising age of marriage, the skyrocketing divorce rates, the increasing number of children born out of wedlock and more cohabitation.
Nowadays people tend to stay single longer, especially women, for reasons like pursuing an academic career. Higher education is more and more seen as perhaps the only ticket to welfare and (economic) independence. .
The option of living together and the ever-increasing pessimism about marriage also contribute to the growing list of bachelors and bachelorettes. What aren't helping either are the differences between married and unmarried men. Single men are less likely to be employed, more likely to do drugs, prone to crime and have lower incomes.
What seems to keep women from pursuing relationships the most, the growing economic independence of women, is also becoming one of the prime reasons for women to get a divorce.
The effective birth control pill and legal abortion have also changed the attitude towards marriage. There are now fewer forced marriages because of pregnancy, and shotgun marriages have become rare. All this leads to an increase in the number of children born out of wedlock. This particular phenomenon occurs with white people as well as black people. Children born out of wedlock increased from 5% to 26% in white families, and from 35% to 69% in black families. It is also said that welfare is a cause for more children being born to unmarried mothers, but this is not a very well supported theory. .
Furthermore there may be an immense negative influence on children who are not living in a two-parent family.