Whereas 39% of all US adults lived without a partner or spouse in 2007, that number has risen to 42% in 2017, according to
data from the US Census Bureau.
"People are more conscious of the potential costs" of living together, said Stephanie Coontz
, director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families
, a nonpartisan group of experts and researchers.
"A good part of it, of course, is the delay in marriage," said Coontz, who was not involved in the Pew analysis.
The dropping marriage rate is large enough to tip the scales, despite an opposing trend: Unmarried adults are still more likely to live with a romantic partner
than before, according to Pew Research.
These trends ring especially true for those under 35: About 61% of them are "unpartnered," versus 56% a decade ago. "Unpartnered" people may include couples who live apart, single parents or people who live with their parents.
"They feel like they're not financially stable
, and so they just don't think that they're ready to enter into a partnership like that," said Kim Parker
, director of social trends research at Pew.
"In the past, it seems like young adults sprung right into marriage, whether or not they felt financially ready, and then built a life and built financial stability as a couple," Parker said.
"Now, you find that young adults are waiting until they've checked some of the other boxes."
Single, not ready to mingle
Experts disagree on how much divorce plays a role in the rise of unpartnered adults.
"Divorce has likely not contributed to the growing share of unpartnered adults over this short period," the Pew analysis says, adding that some statistics even suggest a stable or falling divorce rate. Experts have also argued that many of these data are flawed
to begin with.