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Social & Policy Issues
Gallup Analysis: Millennials, Marriage and Family
Social & Policy Issues

Gallup Analysis: Millennials, Marriage and Family

by John Fleming
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 59% of millennials are single and have never been married
  • 60% of millennials do not have any children under 18 in their household

PRINCETON, N.J. -- There are roughly 73 million millennials in the U.S. -- those born between 1980 and 1996 -- and to marketers, these consumers represent a huge economic opportunity. To some, millennials are hyperconnected and technology-savvy social media mavens. To others, millennials are the new generation of highly indebted narcissists forever credited with coining the term "selfie."

Marketers and business leaders have a keen interest in understanding how members of the millennial generation -- now the largest generation after eclipsing the baby boomers -- differ from members of other generations. Understanding millennials' attitudes, preferences and behaviors is critical because they have significant implications for many aspects of U.S. social and economic life.

The Gallup Daily tracking survey reveals that members of the millennials do in fact differ from other generations in some important ways -- ways that millennials' relative youth alone does not explain. We would expect young people to differ from those who are older, as they always have, just as we would expect seniors to differ from those who are younger. These differences that the data reveal represent a departure from the patterns of older generations at the same points in their lives. Large sample sizes -- approximately 175,000 per year -- allow Gallup to examine extensive demographic breaks and crosstabulations of the daily measures. The 2014 Gallup Daily tracking data are one of the only sources to capture views of the entire span of the millennial generation, because the last of the millennials turned 18 in 2014.

Marital Status, by Generation
Millennials% Gen Xers% Baby boomers% Traditionalists% TOTAL%
Single/Never married 59 16 10 4 25
Married 27 62 65 55 52
Separated 2 4 3 1 2
Divorced 3 11 14 9 9
Widowed * 1 6 29 6
Domestic partnership/ Living with partner 9 6 3 1 5
* Less than 0.5%
Gallup U.S. Daily tracking, Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2014

Millennials Are in No Rush to Marry

Contrary to what we would expect, given normal demographic patterns of adolescents' movement into early adulthood and family formation, the data show that significantly more millennials are currently single/never married than was true for those in older generations, and considerably more are in domestic partnerships. Specifically, more than half of all millennials (59%) have never married, and 9% are in domestic partnerships. Gallup has noted a trend toward fewer young adults being married in recent years.

In the 2014 Gallup Daily tracking data, just 27% of millennials were married. According to historical U.S. Census Bureau data, 36% of Generation Xers, 48% of baby boomers and 65% of traditionalists were married when they were the age that millennials are now. For millennials currently aged 18 to 30, just 20% are married, compared with nearly 60% of 18- to 30-year-olds in 1962, according to the U.S. Census. When Gen Xers were the same age, 32% were married; for baby boomers, it was more than 40%.

Millennials are clearly delaying marriage longer than any generation before them, in spite of evidence suggesting that many millennials intend to marry at some point. For example, a 2013 Gallup poll found that 86% of single/never married Americans aged 18 to 34 (roughly equivalent to the millennial generation) wanted to get married someday.

The percentage of single-adult households for millennials (18%) is no different from that of Gen Xers (16%) or baby boomers (19%), while the percentage of single-adult traditionalist households (31%) is larger for obvious mortality reasons. The percentage of current two-adult millennial households (46%) is significantly lower than that of Gen Xers (57%), baby boomers (52%) or traditionalists (55%). Significantly more millennials are currently in multi-adult households of three or more (36%) than is true for any other generation, suggesting that these reflect some form of communal living arrangement (77% of millennials in multi-adult households of three or more are single/never married, while 12% are married).

Adults Aged 18 or Older in Household, by Generation
Millennials% Gen Xers% Baby boomers% Traditionalists% TOTAL%
One 18 16 19 31 20
Two 46 57 52 55 52
Three or more 36 27 29 14 28
Gallup U.S. Daily tracking, Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2014

Millennials Are Intent on Having Children

The key point, however, is this: There doesn't appear to be any evidence that millennials -- both married and single/never married -- are putting off having children. Even among the small percentage (2%) of married 18-year-old millennials, less than half (44%) have no children, and the percentage decreases with age to just 17% at age 34. And while few single 18-year-old millennials have children (4%), that percentage rises to almost half by age 34. In other words, almost half of the oldest millennials who have never married nonetheless have children. In 2000, the comparable number for Gen Xers aged 30 to 34 was just 30%.

In fact, public perceptions of the moral acceptability of having children out of wedlock have increased dramatically over the past decade and a half. Gallup poll data show that the percentage who say this is morally acceptable currently stands at an all-time high (62% overall and 68% among millennials). As recently as 2002, just 45% overall said it was morally acceptable to have a child out of wedlock, while 50% said it was morally wrong.

In a 2013 Gallup poll, 87% of adults between 18 and 40 who did not yet have children said they wanted them someday. The current data suggest that for millennials, "having children someday" does not necessarily depend on being married. But when combined with the observation that the substantial majority of single/never married 18- to 34-year-olds would like to get married someday, it is possible that more single/never married millennials with children will ultimately get married in the months and years ahead. It is also possible that more millennials -- married or not -- will have children in the near future.

Children Under 18 in Household, by Generation
Millennials% Gen Xers% Baby boomers% Traditionalists% TOTAL%
None 60 32 86 98 66
One 15 23 9 1 13
Two 13 26 4 1 12
Three or more 11 19 2 1 9
Gallup U.S. Daily tracking, Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2014


Most millennials have not yet married, and they are waiting longer to marry. For 34-year-olds, just over half (56%) are married, and of these, 83% have children. But a substantial number (46%) of those who have never been married and are well into their 30s have children. This may represent a seismic shift in the connection between marriage and child rearing because as recently as 2000, the comparable percentage of single/never married 30- to 34-year-olds with children was just 30%.

More millennials currently live in multi-adult households than is true for other generations, and the data suggest that unlike those older generations, these multi-adult households consist primarily of single millennials living collectively. Domestic partnerships -- not common in general -- are much more common among millennials, and millennials are more than twice as likely as older Americans to identify as LGBT. No doubt this is a reflection of changing social standards within the larger American community. These last observations about marriage, family and sexuality tend to point to a generation that is beginning to rethink and reconstruct social norms to better fit its wants and needs, throwing off convention when it no longer serves a compelling purpose.

The face of the American family has profoundly changed during the past two generations, with millennials picking up where Gen Xers left off. Along with these changes, or perhaps as a result of them, social norms within American society have shifted -- and with them, nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It would be wise for marketers and business leaders to stay abreast of the kinds of changes millennials bring to American society, because understanding how this large group of consumers approaches the world -- and the marketplace -- could be lucrative. Getting it wrong, however, could hamstring and hobble a company for decades.

Download Gallup's latest report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, to get further insight into what millennials really want from a job, manager and company, and what organizations can do to become this generation's employer of choice.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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