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U.S. YOUTH CONTINUE TO DELAY MARRIAGE, PARENTHOOD

America's young people are continuing to delay getting married and starting families, the Census Bureau said this week. Instead, they are staying at home with their parents or moving in with a roommate without marrying.

According to a bureau survey, taken in March 1990 and which does not reflect the results of the 1990 census, the estimated median age for a first marriage is 26.1 years for men and 23.9 years for women, up from 23.2 years and 20.8 years in 1970.The bureau's survey found that 77 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 had never been married and about two-thirds of those 19.6 million young people were living at home with their parents.

But the study also found there were 2.9 million unmarried-couple households in 1990, an increase of 80 percent over 1980, suggesting the much vaunted return to traditional morality of the Reagan era is yet to be seen among the young.

It said the proportion of women between 30 and 34 who had never married has nearly tripled since 1970, from 6 percent to 16 percent in 1990. Among men in the same age group, the proportion went from 9 percent to 27 percent.

In the overall population, the Census study found, there are some 36 million men and 43 million women who have never married or are currently widowed or divorced.

The late age for marrying is almost exactly what it was 100 years ago, according to the Census report. Since 1890, there was a decline in the median age at first marriage that did not end until 1956, when the median reached a low of 20.1 years for women and 22.5 years for men.

The study also indicated that those who marry and divorce may also delay remarrying, finding that 8 percent of the total population - 15, 128,000 - are currently divorced and have not remarried.

Between 1960 and 1990, the proportion of people 18 to 24 who lived in the home of their parents increased from 43 percent to 53 percent. At the same time, the proportion of comparable young adults maintaining a family dropped from 42 percent to 22 percent.

Among those between 25 and 34, the number maintaining their own families also declined from 83 percent to 65 percent.

For children, the changes in family lifestyles meant that fewer of them were living with two parents, or in many cases, becoming a part of a "blended" family in which one parent is a stepparent.

According to the survey, in 1990, 73 percent of children under 18 lived with two parents, down from 85 percent in 1970. An estimated 15 percent of those children living with two parents are stepchildren.