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  Chapter Four:

  Marriage Rate and Age
  Premarital Sex
  Cohabiting Couples
  Extramarital Sex
  Attitudes about Sex
  Married Couples
  Married Women
  Nonmarital Births
  Parent-Child Contact



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Married Women

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The proportion of the population that is married varied considerably, with the lowest points occurring at the beginning and the end of the century.
The proportion of white women who were married at any given time rose irregularly from a low of 57 percent in 1900 to a high of 70 percent at the peak of the baby boom in 1960. The percentage began to decline after 1960, and by the late 1990s, it was again approaching the level of 1900. 

During the first half of the century, the share of black women who were married differed little from that of their white counterparts. But the incidence of marriage among black women began to fall before the baby boom was over, and the gap between black and white women widened significantly. Although the proportion of black and white women who were married differed by no more than 4 percentage points during the first half of the century, the gap expanded to 21 percentage points by 1998. This disparity was even greater for young women. Among twenty-nine-year-old women, for example, 52 percent of blacks but only 19 percent of whites described themselves as “single—never married” in 1990. Proportionately more black women than white women reported themselves as separated, and significantly more as widowed or divorced, particularly at older ages. The marital characteristics of Hispanic women, recorded separately only since 1970, were closer to those of white women than of black women. 

The trends displayed in this chart, combined with trends in nonmarital births and cohabitation, suggest that by the end of the century, the black population of the United States had entered uncharted territory with respect to the pattern of their personal relationships and the composition of their households. But it is equally clear from the chart, and from a substantial volume of additional data, that similar trends were under way in the rest of the American population, both white and nonwhite, with long-term consequences that are difficult to predict.

Chapter 4 chart 8

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

CB, 1930 Census General Report, page 2. See also Douglas L. Anderson, Richard E. Barrett, and Donald J. Bogue, The Population of the United States, 3d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1997), page 196; SA 1997, table 58; and SA 1999, table 62.


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