Opting out of Marriage? Factors Predicting Non-Marriage by Midlife across Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

Xing Zhang, Sharon Sassler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Over the last few decades, a growing proportion of Americans have never married. Factors contributing to adolescent expectations for marriage and the likelihood of non-marriage by midlife, however, remain understudied. We explore attitudinal and economic factors associated with non-marriage among a sample of White, Black, and Hispanic men and women in their early 30s through early 40s. Data are from Waves I, II, IV, and V of Add Health (n = 7,297). We use logistic regression analysis to assess how adolescent expectations to remain unmarried in adolescence and economic factors in adulthood are associated with never marrying among respondents approaching their fourth decade of life. Negative adolescent expectations regarding marriage are highly predictive of non-marriage in later life, particularly among White adults. Economic factors, such as educational attainment, educational mobility, earnings, and job instability, are more predictive of non-marriage for Black adults, and for men. Our findings suggest how ideational and structural factors challenge the institution of marriage at different times in the life course. Adolescent expectations for marriage are important predictors of subsequent union formation, but economic factors continue to differentiate union outcomes among older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-428
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Currents
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • marriage
  • race and ethnicity
  • singlehood
  • transition to adulthood
  • union formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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