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Are You Married? The Answer Depends a Lot on Your Religion

The role of marriage in people’s lives is very different for people of different religious affiliations, including none at all. That much, you probably already know or surmised.

Thanks to a just-published report from the Pew Research Center, we now know the percentage of people in each marital status for 30 religious groups in the United States. Data were from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

In the study, the average percentages, across all religious groups, were:

Percent (%)

48 married

25 always-single (never married)

13 divorced or separated

7  widowed

7 living with a romantic partner

Which groups have the highest proportion of married people and never-married people?

First, the results for the MARRIED.

Here are the groups in which at least 60% are married:

66 Mormon

64 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

64 United Church of Christ

62 Evangelical Lutheran Church

61 Anglican Church

61 United Methodist Church

60 Southern Baptist Convention

60 Hindu

Here are two from the middle group:

56 Jewish

52 Catholic

And here are the groups in which fewer than 40% are married:

39 Buddhist

38 Nothing in particular

36 Atheist

35 National Baptist Convention

35 Agnostic

30 African Methodist Episcopal Church

Now let’s see the results for the NEVER MARRIED.

Religious groups in which 30% or more have never been married:

45 Muslim

41 Agnostic

40 Atheist

37 Buddhist

35 Nothing in particular

33 Church of God in Christ

32 Hindu

31 Orthodox Christian

30 African Methodist Episcopal Church

Here are two from the middle group:

23 Jewish

21 Catholic

Here are the religious groups in which 15% or fewer of the members have never been married:

15 Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

14 Presbyterian Church in America

14 Church of the Nazarene

14 United Church of Christ

13 Southern Baptist Convention

13 Assemblies of God

12 Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.)

12 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

10 United Methodist Church

Religion is only one of many factors linked to the likelihood that a person is married. For example, there are different rates of marriage for people of different ages and people with different levels of education. Those differences could help explain the different rates of marriage across the different religious groups. For example, younger people are less likely to be married than older people, and atheists tend to be younger than people who are not atheists. Still, when the authors controlled for those differences statistically, atheists were still less likely to be married.

More specifically:

“Even when the analysis is restricted to adults over the age of 30, self-identified atheists, agnostics and those whose religion is nothing in particular are still somewhat less likely than Mormons, Jews, evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics to be married.”

Religious groups are often very focused on marriage and family. Over the years, I have heard from many single people who feel marginalized or devalued in their religious groups or places of worship. One of the important implications of this study, I think, is that single people are a big part of every single religious group. Even in the group with the highest proportion of people who are married – Mormons, with 66% — one out of every three adults is not married. All these groups should start paying attention and making their single members feel welcome and valued – and not just as potential spouses or parents.

Are You Married? The Answer Depends a Lot on Your Religion

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2018). Are You Married? The Answer Depends a Lot on Your Religion. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Mar 2018
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