Special Report

States Where People Marry Old (and Young)

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Since the 1950s, the age at which people have taken their marriage vows in the United States has steadily risen. Census Bureau statistics note that the median age of first-time brides and bridegrooms hovered around 20 in the 1950s. Now, that benchmark is nearly 30 — and it seems to be gradually going up. In 2017, the median age was 28; in 2005, it was 25.

24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the 2017 American Community Survey about married, divorced, separated, and never married as well as the 10-year growth in marriage rate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify in which states people marry young or wait several years.

Why are people waiting longer to get married? One reason is higher education, according to recent research by the Institute of Family Studies. More people get college degrees and hold off on marriage in order to build their careers. For example, Massachusetts, which has the oldest age for first-time marriages, at 30.6 years, also has the highest percentage of people with a bachelor’s or higher, at 43.4%. So there may be a correlation between education level and the age at first marriage.

Finances also factor into the equation. In 2018, Pew Research surveyed Millennials born between 1981-1996. When never-married Millennials were asked why they hadn’t gotten hitched, 29% said they didn’t feel financially prepared for marriage. Not finding the right person and believing they were too young to settle down were next at 26%.

Arielle Kuberberg, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, told The Cut that young people delay taking vows until they get their financial house in order. “Financial stability is really important to couples before they enter marriage,” she said. “So couples want to pay down debt, maybe finish their education.”

The states where people marry at the youngest age also tend to have the lowest rates of people who have never married. A third of the population age 15 or older in the majority of states have never been married. Six of the 11 states where the percentage of never-married population is under 30% have among the youngest median age at first marriage. That would make sense since marrying at a younger age takes more people off the market, so to speak. Recently, we ranked the 11 states where most people are and stay married.

Yet it’s hard to infer why people are marrying well into the late 20s or 30s since it’s such a personal decision. Economics may be a factor. Some research suggests that as women have entered the workforce they may not have felt the urgency to find a mate for financial security. Also, living together without a marriage license is no longer taboo. Among those ages 18-24, more people living together unmarried than those who are married, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Another reason for delayed weddings is their cost. A 2018 study, conducted by online engagement ring retailer JamesAllen.com found that 30% of coupled postponed their wedding because it was too expensive. And some venues cost a lot more than others — here are the most expensive places to get married in America.

Click here to see the states where people marry young and old.

Methodology:

To identify the states where people marry old, 24/7 Tempo took the median age at first marriage for men and women in each state, then calculated a weighted average based on population distribution. Median age at first marriage by sex for each state, as well as the percent of the population that is married, divorced, separated, and never married comes from the American Community Survey 2017 1-Year Estimates, published by the U.S. Census Bureau. Marriage rate per 1,000 total population for 2017 and 10-year growth in marriage rate is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics System. All other data is from the ACS.

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1. Massachusetts
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 30.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 28.2 (4th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.3% (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $77,385 (4th highest)

Massachusetts residents are apparently in no rush to tie the knot. The Bay State tops the list of states where people wait the longest to get married — with a median age at their first marriage of 30.6 years. This is not far off from 2005, when the median age was 28.2 years, the fourth highest that year. Once hitched, Bay Staters stay married, as evidenced by its sixth lowest share of divorced population of 9.5%

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2. New York
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 30.5 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 28.3 (3rd highest)
> Married population in 2017: 44.4% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $64,894 (14th highest)

Much like their Massachusetts counterparts, New York residents tend to hold off getting married until their late 20s or 30s. And once again, the couple that postpones the walk down the aisle tends to stay together. The Empire State’s percentage of divorcees is the second lowest at 8.7%.

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3. Connecticut
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 30.3 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 28.3 (2nd highest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.9% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $74,168 (5th highest)

With a high median household income and just under half of its population married, perhaps Connecticut residents don’t feel the urge to get married. The more a person makes, the less likely he or she may be driven to find a partner for financial security. What’s more, 35.1% of citizens have never been married, more than any other state.

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4. California
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.7 (14th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.6% (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $71,805 (8th highest)

California seems to mirror national statistics when it comes to marriage. The median age at first-time marriages is a bit older than the median age nationwide — 29.9 vs. 29.0 years — but not by much. Maybe California isn’t the trendsetter we thought it was?

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5. Rhode Island
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 28.3 (the highest)
> Married population in 2017: 45.3% (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $63,870 (15th highest)

More than a decade ago, Rhode Island grabbed the top spot for the oldest marrying couples in the U.S. with a median age of 28.3 years. In 2017, the marriage age in Ocean State slipped to fifth place at 29.9 years — a nearly two-year change, but lower than the national average change of over 2.5 year.

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6. New Hampshire
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.8 (12th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 51.4% (10th highest)
> Median household income: $73,381 (6th highest)

Like its New England neighbors, New Hampshire residents are delaying marriage until their late 20s. In addition, the Granite State leapfrogged up the list from No. 12 in 2005 to No. 6 in 2017, as its residents now wait three years longer than in 2005 to tie the knot. This is longer than the national average change of 2.7 years.

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7. New Jersey
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.9 (5th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.1% (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $80,088 (2nd highest)

With the nation’s lowest share of divorced population, at 8.6%, New Jersey residents must like to be married. See, there are some good things to say about New Jersey.

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8. Illinois
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.8 (13th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.4% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $62,992 (16th highest)

Compared to 2005, Illinois residents are taking nearly three years longer to get married, longer than the national average of 2.7 years. They’ve also moved up the list from 13 to the eighth spot.

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9. Florida
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.6 (15th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.1% (7th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,594 (12th lowest)

The Sunshine State ranks ninth among states where residents take longest to marry. However, unlike the other such states, delaying marriage hasn’t lowered its percentage of divorced people. Florida has the ninth largest percentage of divorcees at 13%.

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10. Delaware
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.7 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.5 (17th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.4% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $62,852 (17th highest)

Between 2005 and 2017, Delaware shot up on the list from No. 17 to No. 10. So it’s safe to say Delaware residents are waiting longer and longer to walk down the aisle. The 3.2 years increase is higher than the average increase nationwide, which is 2.7 years.

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11. Pennsylvania
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.2 (9th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.5% (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $59,195 (24th highest)

Pennsylvania sits in the middle of the nation in more ways than one: It comes in at No. 24 for median annual household income at $59,195, and the median age at first marriage stands at 29-and-a-half years, mirroring the national level. The state also mirrors the national average of the number of people who are now married — 47.8% compared to 47.5% for Pennsylvania. It has the ninth lowest percentage of divorced people at 9.8%

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12. Maryland
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.4 (7th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.1% (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $80,776 (the highest)

Does making a good income make a person more likely to delay marriage? Maryland appears to support this argument, with the highest median household income — at more than $80,000 annually — and a relatively older first marriage age in the late-20s.

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13. Vermont
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.2 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.3 (8th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.0% (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $57,513 (24th lowest)

Vermont residents are much like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire in that they’re waiting longer to get hitched than the median age nationwide, which is 29.0. Unlike those other states, Vermont has a rather large divorced population at 13% — the ninth highest on the list.

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14. Maine
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.2 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.0 (10th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.4% (17th highest)
> Median household income: $56,277 (20th lowest)

Maine has the highest percentage of divorced people, at 14.6%, and nearly a third (29%) have never been married. With the state considered a key battleground state in 2020, will we see more Pine Tree state divorces as couples battle over politics?

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15. Colorado
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.1 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.9 (26th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 50.2% (13th highest)
> Median household income: $69,117 (11th highest)

The Western state with the second oldest first marriage age after California is Colorado. Coloradans now wait nearly three years longer to get married than they did in 2005, rising to 29.1 years from 25.9 years. The state made a strong push to the top, going from 26th in 2005 to 15th in 2017.

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16. Louisiana
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.0 (25th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 42.8% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $46,145 (4th lowest)

In 2017, Louisiana had the lowest percentage of married folks in the United States at just under 43%. The state’s marriage rate is 6.0%, the fourth lowest, and lower than the national average of 6.9%. And a high share of those who are married separate compared to rest of the country — the “couple who are married but separated” rate for Louisiana is 2.5%, the fourth highest, compared to the national average of 1.9%

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17. Minnesota
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.4 (18th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 51.9% (9th highest)
> Median household income: $68,388 (12th highest)

Minnesota inched up from the 18th spot in 2005 to 17th spot in 2017 as the median age of first marriage has climbed by 2.6 years, just under the average climb nationally of 2.7 years.

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18. Michigan
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 29.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.6 (16th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.0% (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $54,909 (18th lowest)

Similar to other Midwestern states, Michiganders typically don’t say “I Do” until they’ve reached their 29th birthday, about two-and-half years older than in 2005.

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19. Wisconsin
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.3 (19th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 50.2% (13th highest)
> Median household income: $59,305 (22nd highest)

Wisconsin marks the first state to crack the 29-years-of-age mark, but just barely. People from the state typically marry at 28.9 years. Still, the state’s rank remained at No. 19.

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20. Arizona
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.7 (20th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.9% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,581 (23rd lowest)

In this Southwestern state, the median age at first marriage has risen by more than three years, from 25.7 to 28.9 years, the fifth highest increase from 2005 to 2017 in the country. Arizona’s ranking, however, still held at 20.

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21. Oregon
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.8 (22nd lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.2% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $60,212 (20th highest)

The state with the highest median age at first marriage from the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has had a three-year leap in the median age, a bigger leap than the national average of 2.7 years.

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22. New Mexico
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.2 (21st highest)
> Married population in 2017: 43.3% (2nd lowest)
> Median household income: $46,744 (5th lowest)

New Mexico sports the fourth highest divorced population in the country at 13.3% and the second lowest rate of couples who are currently married — 43.3%, compared to a national average of 47.8%.

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23. Virginia
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.2 (22nd highest)
> Married population in 2017: 50.0% (15th highest)
> Median household income: $71,535 (9th highest)

Virginia ranks among the top 15 for percentage of currently married couples. The state also has a low percentage of divorced people, at 10%, the 11th lowest in the country.

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24. Georgia
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.6 (18th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.7% (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,183 (19th lowest)

In 2005, Georgians married when they reached 25-and-a-half years of age, which placed the state in the 18th lowest slot. Now, they wait until they’re nearly 29.

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25. Ohio
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.7 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.1 (24th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.4% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,021 (16th lowest)

Ohioans don’t walk down the aisle until well after their 28th birthday, reflecting not only national trends, but also the trend in its Midwestern neighbors Wisconsin and Michigan.

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26. South Carolina
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.7 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.3 (20th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 47.0% (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,570 (9th lowest)

South Carolina slipped from the 20th spot in 2005 to 26 in 2007, with the median age at first marriage rising by about two and a half years. That increase, however, is lower than the average nationwide — 2.7 years.

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27. Nevada
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.1 (9th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 45.5% (6th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,003 (25th lowest)

Nevada residents are seemingly unwilling to gamble on marriage. The median age at first marriage rose by almost three and a half years between 2005 and 2017 — the highest increase for that period of time in the country — and its divorced population is nearly 14% — second highest in the U.S.

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28. Washington
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.4 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.9 (24th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 50.6% (12th highest)
> Median household income: $70,979 (10th highest)

Washington’s ranking has not moved much between 2005, when the state was 27th, and now, when it ranks 28th. Residents used to typically marry when they almost 26 years old; now they do at just over 28. The state has the 22nd highest divorced population at nearly 12%.

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29. Montana
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.3 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.6 (16th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 52.1% (8th highest)
> Median household income: $53,386 (14th lowest)

For the first time on the list, the never-married population dips below 30%. In Montana, 28.7% of residents have never entered into matrimony — yet more than half are married.

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30. North Carolina
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.3 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.9 (23rd lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.7% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,752 (13th lowest)

As in South Carolina, North Carolinians delay their vows until after age 28, up from almost 26 years of age in 2005.

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31. Hawaii
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.2 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 27.8 (6th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.3% (18th highest)
> Median household income: $77,765 (3rd highest)

There isn’t much difference in the median age at first marriage in the Aloha State between 2005 and 2017. Couples marry around the 28-year mark.

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32. Missouri
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.1 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.5 (14th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.5% (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $53,578 (15th lowest)

Show Me state residents aren’t ready to show off the wedding bands until age 28.1, more than two years older than in 2005.

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33. Texas
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.1 (8th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.9% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $59,206 (23rd highest)

The median age that Texans first get married is nearly three years older than in 2005, rising from 25.1 to 28 in 2017.

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34. South Dakota
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.8 (11th highest)
> Married population in 2017: 51.0% (11th highest)
> Median household income: $56,521 (22nd lowest)

South Dakotans used to wait until 26.8 years to get married for the first time. Now, they’re waiting until age 28.

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35. Alabama
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.6 (17th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 46.6% (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,123 (6th lowest)

The median age in Alabama for first-time marriages is 28, up from 25.6 years in 2005. The state is in the top 10 of states with the highest rate of separated couples — 2.3% compared to a national average of 1.9%.

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36. Indiana
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 28.0 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.7 (19th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.9% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $54,181 (17th lowest)

Indiana ranks as the fourth state in which its residents marry at 28 for the first time. Back in 2005, locals took their vows at 25.7 years.

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37. Mississippi
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.7 (21st lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 43.7% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $43,529 (2nd lowest)

Mississippi is the first state in which residents are under age 28 when they first marry — 27.9 years. The state also has the third lowest married population (43.7%).

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38. Iowa
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.6 (15th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 52.3% (5th highest)
> Median household income: $58,570 (25th highest)

Like Mississippi, Iowaians postpone their vows until 27.9 years. Interesting fact: Iowa is just one of 11 states where the never-married population slips a tad under 30%.

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39. West Virginia
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.3 (12th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.9% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $43,469 (the lowest)

Like Iowa, the percentage of residents who’ve never put on a wedding ring is under 30% at 28.3%. The share of couples who have divorced is the fourth highest in the country — 13.3%, compared to the national average of 10.9%.

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40. Tennessee
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.7 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.0 (7th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.2% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $51,340 (10th lowest)

Tennesseeans once waited until age 25 to get hitched. But since 2005, the median age has leapt to 27.7 years.

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41. North Dakota
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 26.2 (23rd highest)
> Married population in 2017: 52.2% (6th highest)
> Median household income: $61,843 (18th highest)

North Dakota has the fifth lowest divorced population, at 9.3% and the sixth highest percentage of married couples at 52.2%.

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42. Nebraska
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.4 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.4 (13th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 53.0% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $59,970 (21st highest)

Like its Upper Midwest counterpart North Dakota, Nebraska ranks in the top six in the percentage of married people at 53%.

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43. Alaska
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.4 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 24.9 (6th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.2% (22nd lowest)
> Median household income: $73,181 (7th highest)

Alaskans once deferred taking their marriage vows until roughly age 25. Now, it’s up to 27.4 years.

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44. Kentucky
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.2 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 24.9 (5th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.5% (16th highest)
> Median household income: $48,375 (7th lowest)

Kentucky is another state where the never-been-married population falls under 30% at 28.8%. At 13.1%, its divorced population is the eighth highest.

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45. Kansas
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 27.1 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.3 (11th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 52.2% (6th highest)
> Median household income: $56,422 (21st lowest)

Kansas is one of 15 states where married people represent more than half of those aged 15 and over at 52.2%.

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46. Wyoming
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 26.8 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 25.2 (10th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 52.7% (4th highest)
> Median household income: $60,434 (19th highest)

At a median age of 26.8 years at first marriage, Wyoming is the first state where residents take their vows before age 27.

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47. Oklahoma
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 26.6 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 24.5 (4th lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 48.9% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $50,051 (8th lowest)

Oklahoma’s percentage of divorced people is the fourth highest, at 13.3%. The state has the eighth lowest percentage of people who were never married — 29.0%, compared to a national average of 33.7%.

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48. Arkansas
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 26.4 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 24.1 (3rd lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 49.2% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $45,869 (3rd lowest)

In 2005, Arkansas ranked as the state with the third lowest median age at first marriage, at 24.1 years. In 2017, the state landed in the same spot, with an older median age of 26.4 years.

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49. Idaho
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 25.9 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 24.0 (2nd lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 53.5% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $52,225 (11th lowest)

Like Arkansas, Idaho retained its ranks on the list. The state has the second lowest median age at first marriage at 25.9 years, approximately two years younger than the age in 2005 of 24. Idaho is also the first state where couples marry for the first time before their 26th birthday.

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50. Utah
> Median age at first marriage in 2017: 25.5 years
> Median age at first marriage in 2005: 23.3 (the lowest)
> Married population in 2017: 55.6% (the highest)
> Median household income: $68,358 (13th highest)

Of all states, Utah has the highest percentage of married people at 55.6%. It also takes the third lowest slot in the percentage of divorcees at 9.2%.

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