WASHINGTON – More and more Americans are getting divorced. And more divorcees are saying "I do" for a second time.
Statistics released Thursday from a 1996 Census Bureau survey on marriage and divorce reveal that the pre-1950s family model is now "an aberration," according to Pamela Smock, a University of Michigan sociologist.
The report, which provides the most comprehensive look at marriage trends to date, "confirms the things that American people are well aware of," Smock said.
Roughly half of first marriages for people younger than 45 end in divorce. First marriages that end in divorce typically last about 8 years.
And younger generations of Americans are delaying that walk down the aisle until later in life.
"Marriage still is something that many people want to do and expect to do, but these statistics show that they are spending a lot of time unmarried," said Marshall Miller, co-founder of the Boston-based Alternatives to Marriage Project.
"People no longer feel they have to rush down the aisle," Miller said.
More educated people are more likely to marry and stay married, the report found. Miller's rationale: they are more mature when they tie the knot, and presumably have spent more time courting their future spouses.
In the fall of 1996, 92 out of 1,000 never-married men age 25 to 44 with bachelor's degrees got married within that past year, compared with 59 out of 1,000 men of the same age with just high school degrees.
Women who graduated from college were less likely to divorce in the previous year than those who had only high school educations.
Long-held models of family makeup are slowly dissolving, said David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project, a think tank at Rutgers University. The group studies marriage trends and ways of strengthening marriage.
"In the past, guys would look for a stay-at-home housewife," Popenoe said. "Young guys today are looking for someone with some money, and that requires an education."
Roughly 9 out of 10 Americans were expected to marry in their lifetimes, the report projected. While still high, it's a change from the 1950s, when everyone was expected to get married, said Thomas Coleman, executive director of the Los Angeles-based American Association of Single People.
The Bush administration wants to change the 1996 welfare overhaul, which must be renewed this year, to encourage women on welfare to get married. President Bush's 2003 budget proposal included $100 million for experimental programs to do that.
—11 percent of men born between 1925 and 1934 were married at least twice by age 40, compared with 22 percent of men born between 1945 and 1954. There was a similar increase among women.
—About 38 percent of women in their first marriage who married between 1945 and 1964 were the same age as or older than their husbands, compared with 48 percent of women who tied the knot between 1970 and 1989.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.