Married Adults Now In A Minority

Jan 31, 2024

The popularity of marriage has continued to decline. Now, for the first time, less than half of people aged 16 and over in England and Wales are married.

The proportion dropped to 49% in 2022, down from 49.4% in 2021 and 50.9% in 2012, Office for National Statistics figuresshow. The statistics for both 2021 and 2022 were released last week.

Those in cohabiting couples (living together but not in a marriage or civil partnership) rose to 22.7% in 2022, up from 19.7% in 2012.

The continued slide in marriage rates is discouraging. We know that marriage is of great benefit to couples, to children and to the whole of society. Marriage massively boosts the all-important stability of relationships. No one should welcome these trends.

Yet in response some have called for greater rights for cohabitees, given that marriage is supposedly “going out of fashion”. This is completely the wrong reaction. Government should be seeking to encourage and strengthen marriage, not weaken it by giving the same rights to people who have not made such a public commitment to one another.

The Guardian even suggested married couples give ‘non-monogamy’ a try. How committing adultery is supposed to improve a marriage is unclear.

But the Government is missing in action. It’s been almost ten years since any Cabinet minister made a speech or comment on marriage, according to the Marriage Foundation’s Harry Benson. There’s no sign of marriage-friendly reforms to the tax and benefit systems. In 2022, the Government brought in ‘no fault’ unilateral divorce.

Marriage is not something that can ‘go out of fashion’. It is and always has been the gold standard for family life. The sooner the Government remembers that, the better.