An ominous report from the New York Times:

“The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples – with and without children – just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.”

The good news is that much of the decline is concentrated in the age brackets of younger people, who still stand a chance of tying the knot:

Married couples have not been a majority of households headed by adults younger than 25 since the 1970’s, but among those aged 25 to 34 the proportion slipped below 50 percent for the first time within the past five years. (Among Americans aged 35 to 64, married couples still make up a majority of all households.)

The bad news is that some of these wedlock-shy folks may be in for a rude shock when they finally decide to get hitched:

‘It does show that a lot of people are experimenting with alternatives before they get there,’ [Steve] Watters [director of young adults for Focus on the Family} said. ‘The biggest concern is that those who still aspire to marriage are going to find fewer models. They’re also finding they’ve gotten so good at being single it’s hard to be at one with another person.'”

The study also confirms that all your stereotypes about where hippies, gays, and lesbians live are…true:

“Among counties, the highest proportion of unmarried opposite-sex partners was in Mendocino, Calif., where they made up nearly 11 percent of all households.

“The highest share of male couples was in San Francisco, where, according to the census, they accounted for nearly 2 percent of all households. In Manhattan, they made up 1 percent of households. Hampshire County, Mass., home to Northampton [and Smith College], had the highest proportion of female couples, at 1.7 percent.”