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Census 2000 Brief: Marital Status: 2000

Written by:
Report Number C2KBR-30

Among the 221.1 million people aged 15 and over in the United States in 2000:

  • 120.2 million, or 54.4 percent, were now married;
  • 41.0 million, or 18.5 percent, were widowed, divorced or separated; and
  • 59.9 million, or 27.1 percent, were never married.

This report, part of a series that presents population and housing data collected by Census 2000, presents data on the marital status of people aged 15 and over. It describes marital status distributions for the United States, including regions, states, counties, and places with populations of 100,000 or more.1 Highlights include marital status patterns by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, ratios of unmarried men to unmarried women, and changes in marital status distributions observed since the 1950 census.

The data on marital status were derived from answers to question 7 on the Census 2000 long form, “What is this person’s marital status?” (Figure 1). The resulting classification refers to the person’s status at the time of enumeration. Marital status was reported for each person as either “now married,” “widowed,” “divorced,” “separated,” or “never married.” Individuals who were living together (unmarried people, people in common-law marriages) reported the marital status which they considered most appropriate. Data on marital status were tabulated only for people aged 15 and over.

The decennial census has asked about the marital status of the population since 1880. From 1880 through 1940, marital status was categorized as “single,” “married,” “widowed,” or “divorced.” “Separated” was added as a category in 1950. In various years, additional related questions were asked, including age at first marriage, whether the person was married in the last year, whether ever-married people had married more than once, and the dates of current and first marriages, but these detailed questions were not asked in Census 2000. While in previous censuses, the marital status item appeared on the short-form questionnaire and was asked of the entire population; in Census 2000, the marital-status item appeared only on the long form, which was given to approximately 1 in every 6 households.2

1 The text of this report discusses data for the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are shown in Table 2. The states in each region are shown in Figure 4.

The estimates in this report are based on responses from a sample of the population. As with all surveys, estimates may vary from the actual values because of sampling variation or other factors. All statements made in this report have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence interval unless otherwise noted.

2 In 1990, data on marital status and relationship to reference person were edited simultaneously. Since information on marital status was only available in the sample data in 2000, data on marital status were edited independently, after the relationship item was edited. Small differences in marital status data between 1990 and 2000 should be treated with caution given these differences in editing procedures.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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