The “single black woman gloom and doom” debate has focused on the supposed inability of one segment of the population to settle down by pushing the mythical statistic that 70% of black women are single, but a study by the Pew Research Center reveals that marriage is losing its ground across the board.

From The Associated Press:

In 1960, 72 percent of those 18 or older were married. The percentage fell to 57 percent in 2000, and today it’s just 51 percent, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

The share of marrieds could dip below half in a few years as single-person households, single parents and couples living together outside the bounds of legal marriage multiply. The number of new marriages in the U.S. fell 5 percent just from 2009 to 2010, a wrinkle that may or may not relate to the bad economy, Pew researcher D’Vera Cohn said.

This decline is most pronounced among adults under the age of thirty, only one in five of which are married. In addition to the struggling economy, which has been blamed for the decline in marriage in all developing countries, researchers also cite the increased earning power of women and the widespread opinion that no marriage is better than a failed marriage.

The most interesting aspect of these numbers is the approach to researching marriage at all and the often conflicting social attitudes towards the institution. One one hand, only heterosexuals are granted the right to marry their partners and both advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage tout the institution as a sacred human right. On the other, the devastation of divorce and the ability to forge commitment without the state-sanctioned paperwork have allowed some people to conclude that marriage is not worth the effort.

What do you think? Is marriage going out of style for good reason, or is it still necessary and important?

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