Marital Status/Marital History
The data on marital status and marital history were derived from answers to Questions 20 through 23. The marital status question is asked to determine the status of the person at the time of interview. Many government programs need accurate information on marital status, such as the number of married women in the labor force, elderly widowed individuals, or young single people who may establish homes of their own. The marital history data enables multiple agencies to more accurately measure the effects of federal and state policies and programs that focus on the well-being of families. Marital history data can provide estimates of marriage and divorce rates and duration, as well as flows into and out of marriage. This information is critical for more refined analyses of eligibility for program services and benefits, and of changes resulting from federal policies and programs.
Before 2008, the marital status question was asked of all people. Beginning in 2008, the question on marital status was asked only for people 15 years old and over. People 15 and over were asked whether they were "now married," "widowed," "divorced," "separated," or "never married." People in common-law marriages were allowed to report the marital status they considered the most appropriate. When marital status was not reported, it was imputed according to the person's relationship to the householder, sex, and age.
Differences in the number of married males and females occur because there is no step in the weighting process to equalize the weighted estimates of husbands and wives.
Includes all people who have never been married, including people whose only marriage(s) was annulled.
Includes people ever married at the time of interview (including those now married, separated, widowed, or divorced).
Now Married, Except Separated
Includes people whose current marriage has not ended through widowhood, divorce, or separation (regardless of previous marital history). The category may also include couples who live together or people in common-law marriages if they consider this category the most appropriate. In certain tabulations, currently married people are further classified as "spouse present" or "spouse absent." In tabulations, unless otherwise specified, "now married" does not include same-sex married people even if the marriage was performed in a state issuing marriage certificates for same-sex couples.
Includes people legally separated or otherwise absent from their spouse because of marital discord. Those without a final divorce decree are classified as "separated." This category also includes people who have been deserted or who have parted because they no longer want to live together but who have not obtained a divorce.
Includes widows and widowers who have not remarried.
Includes people who are legally divorced and who have not remarried. Those without a final divorce decree are classified as "separated."
In selected tabulations, data for married and separated people are reorganized and combined with information on the presence of the spouse in the same household.
All people whose current marriage has not ended by widowhood or divorce. This category includes people defined above as "separated."
- Spouse Present - Married people whose wife or husband was reported as a member of the same household, including those whose spouses may have been temporarily absent for such reasons as travel or hospitalization.
- Spouse Absent - Married people whose wife or husband was not reported as a member of the same household or people reporting they were married and living in a group quarters facility.
- Separated - Defined above.
- Spouse Absent, Other - Married people whose wife or husband was not reported as a member of the same household, excluding separated. Included is any person whose spouse was employed and living away from home or in an institution or serving away from home in the Armed Forces.
Differences between the number of married males and the number of married females occur because: some husbands and wives have their usual residence in different areas; and husbands and wives do not have the same weights. By definition, the numbers would be the same.
Median Age at First Marriage
The median age at first marriage is calculated indirectly by estimating the proportion of young people who will marry during their lifetime, calculating one-half of this proportion, and determining the age (at the time of the survey) of people at this half-way mark by osculatory interpolation. It does not represent the actual median age of the population who married during the calendar year. It is shown to the nearest tenth of a year. Henry S. Shryock and Jacob S. Siegel outline the osculatory procedure in Methods and Materials of Demography, First Edition (May 1973), Volume 1, pages 291-296.
Beginning in 2008, people 15 years and over who were ever married (married, widowed, separated, or divorced) were asked if they had been married, widowed, or divorced in the past 12 months. They were asked how many times (once, two times, three or more times) they have been married, and the year of their last marriage.
The word "current" was dropped from the 1996-1998 question. Since 1999, the question states, "What is this person's marital status?" The American Community Survey began providing the median age at first marriage with the 2004 data. Data on marital history were first collected in 2008 at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide more detailed annual information on the marital status of the population. Before 2008, the marital status question was asked of all people and only tabulated for those 15 and over. In 2008, marital status was moved from the basic demographic section, at the beginning of the ACS questionnaire, to the detailed person section - a part of the questionnaire where questions were asked of only people 15 and over. The marital history questions follow the marital status question on the questionnaire.
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations have marital status distributions that are very different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the marital status distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.
The data on marital status can be compared to previous ACS years and to similar data collected on CPS and SIPP. Marital status is no longer asked on the Decennial Census. The marital history data, and particularly marriage and divorce rates derived from the questions asking if the person got married or divorced in the past 12 months is comparable to vital statistics collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).