What’s the story on American marriages and families from 2014? Here is a list of just some of the findings:

1. Americans Still Like Marriage

A full 67 percent of Americans disagree with the idea that marriage is outdated, according to a 2014 report from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. Likewise, a 2013 Gallup Poll shows that 75 percent of Americans are either married or would like to get married.

2. Marriage Boosts Social Mobility

In a much-noted study published at the beginning of 2014, Harvard researcher Raj Chetty and colleagues found that the marriage culture around a child is the greatest factor for her social mobility. As the researchers note, “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents” in a community.

3. Unwed Childbearing Remains Alarmingly High

The unwed birth rate remains troublingly high at over 40 percent of all births, roughly the same troublingly high rate it has been for the last several years.

4. Marriage Continues to Protect Against Child Poverty

As the annual 2014 Census poverty report shows, children in single-parent homes are five times as likely to be poor compared to children in married-parent homes, similar to what previous research has shown.

5. Married Households Make More Money

A 2014 American Enterprise Institute study by Brad Wilcox and Robert Lerman supports what prior research has found: married men earn significantly more their single counterparts. Wilcox and Lerman also found that 32 percent of the growth in family income inequality since 1979 can be linked to the decline in the marriage rate.

6. Fertility Rate Reaches an All-Time Low

The general fertility rate in the United States reached a new low, according to a December 2014 report from the National Center for Health Statistics. As Jonathan Last writes in the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, “For the past 10 years, America’s fertility rate has been trending downward….[T]he fertility rate shapes the nation’s age profile, impacts the economy, puts entitlement programs at risk, and even influences foreign policy.”

7. Proportion of Single Americans Reaches All-Time High

In 2014, the number of single Americans hit an all-time high, now at over half–50.2 percent, to–of the adult population. In the mid-1970s, the percentage was 37.4 percent.

8. Cohabitation Gets Positive Responses But Less Positive Outcomes

Most couples live together before they wed, and a 2014 study shows that a large portion–44 percent–of Americans think that cohabitation before marriage is a good idea. However, research suggests the opposite: cohabitation is linked to poorer marital quality.

9. Most Americans Report Multiple Sexual Partners

The same 2014 study shows that, on average, Americans report having between 4 and 6 sexual partners over their lifetime. Once again though, research indicates that those who only have sex with the person they marry report higher marital quality.

10. The Marriage Divide Continues

A 2014 study by Professor Andrew J. Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues shows that among mothers without a high-school diploma, 63 percent of births are outside of marriage. However, among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage. This divide has been taking place for some time now, leaving children in lower-income, and increasingly more so in working-class communities, without the multiple benefits of marriage.

11. Fathers Are Spending More Time with Their Children

Fathers today spend significantly more time with their children than they did just two decades ago, according to an April 2014 American Enterprise Institute study by Brad Wilcox. This is good news, considering children with involved fathers on average have better outcomes, including an increased likelihood of graduating from college. Unfortunately, fewer youth live with their fathers today than in past decades.


While Americans continue to desire to be married and to have children, today many of the trends surrounding these practices fail to support successful relationships, putting both adults and children and society at risk. The good news is trends can change. In 2015, policymakers and leaders at every level should work to strengthen marriage and family.

For more information on trends in family and the culture, see the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity.