Three mornings a week, when Becky Leung gets ready for work, her boyfriend is just getting home from his overnight job. When her mother drops hints about her twin sister's marriage, she laughs it off. And when she thinks about getting married herself, she worries first about her career.
Leung, 27, cohabits in a Portland, Ore., townhome with her boyfriend but has no plans yet to wed, a reflection of the broader cultural shift in the U.S. away from the traditional definition of what it means to be a household.
Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows married couples have found themselves in a new position: They're no longer the majority.
It's a trend that's been creeping along for decades, but in the 2010 Census, married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That's down from 52 percent in the last Census and, for the first time in U.S. history, puts households led by married couples as a plurality.
"I see a lot of people not having the typical 8-to-5 job, or couples where one person is employed and one isn't. There's other priorities before marriage," Leung said.
The flip in the 2010 Census happened in 32 states. In another seven states, less than 51 percent of households were helmed by married couples.
The reason, said Portland State University demographer Charles Rynerson, is twofold: The fast-growing older population is more likely to be divorced or widowed later in life, and 20-somethings are putting off their nuptials for longer stretches.