Like many of today's young people, 34-year-old Andy Sanchez wants to get married but is having a hard time finding somebody interested in a serious relationship.
After living in Maryland and socializing in Washington, D.C., for the past seven years, he said, "This is the easiest place I've ever been to find somebody for the night, and the hardest place to find somebody for a week or a month or a year."
"I am getting married but it's not something that's going to happen in the near term. I have to have a girlfriend first," said Sanchez, a computer security specialist who has also lived in California and Texas.
In every state and Washington, D.C., the share of people between 20 and 34 who have never married has risen sharply since 2000, according to a Stateline analysis of census data. In cities where millennials flock for jobs, the situation can be extreme: 81 percent of young people are still single in Washington, D.C., up from 73 percent in 2000.
In six states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) more than 70 percent of young people are single. In 2000, no state had such a large share; Massachusetts and New York had the largest at 57 percent. At the other end of the scale, last year Utah was the only state where more than half of the young people had been married at some point. In 2000, 39 states were in that category.
Whether it's a desire to establish their careers, the pressures of student loan debt, worries about financial instability born of memories of the Great Recession, or a yen to "find themselves" before partnering up, millennials are on track to remain single far longer than other generations.
This is true despite evidence that they have as much interest in marriage as previous generations. Since the 1980s, surveys by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research have consistently shown that 80 percent of high school seniors expect to be married at some point in the future.
Marriage is becoming less feasible for young people because of economic uncertainty, said Gary Lee, professor emeritus of sociology at Bowling Green State University, who wrote a book last year about the declining marriage rate.
"It's become more and more difficult for young adults to make a living, especially for less-educated men. This makes marriage a risky proposition," Lee said. Instead, people see staying single as a "survival strategy" that makes it easier to switch to a partner with better job prospects, he said.
Young couples are living together without getting married at a higher rate. For the 20-34 age group, the share of households that include unmarried partners rose from 12 to 16 percent since 2000. But the share of married couples is declining faster than that, dropping from 45 to 37 percent of households during that time.
Between 2007 and 2016, the share of 20- to 34-year-olds living with a partner, married or unmarried, has dropped from 49 to 43 percent, said Steven Ruggles, a demographer at the University of Minnesota who wrote a study of marriage and cohabitation among young couples last year.
"Increasingly, young adults are forgoing partners altogether," Ruggles said.
Unmarried in Massachusetts
As of 2015, the median age at first marriage for Massachusetts men was 31, tied with New York for the highest in the nation.
Shane Dunn of Boston was 31 when he tied the knot last July. Dunn and his fiancée delayed their wedding plans for five years, as he established a career in education management in Boston and paid off student debt, and she finished business school in Chicago.
"When we met, in our mid-20s, neither one of us had wanted to rush into marriage," Dunn said. "Marriage was always in my plans, but it took a long time for us to get set up with our careers. Coordinating our careers is very important to both of us. It's a big topic."
In Massachusetts, 74 percent of young people had never been married as of last year, the highest of any state. It was 57 percent in 2000.
More people in Massachusetts and New England have postponed marriage because women there are better educated and more likely to work than in other states, said Susan Strate, a demographer at the University of Massachusetts.
For many millennials who graduated into the recession, a desire to build a solid educational and financial foundation trumped marriage plans.
LaTisha Styles, a financial adviser who grew up in Atlanta, said she wanted to get married years ago, but after she graduated from college in 2006, she went to graduate school to study finance, then moved back into her parents' home as she looked for a job.
"I wanted to get married in my early 20s but I had to put it on the back burner and work on my career," Styles said. Last year, at 33, she married and moved to Memphis, where her husband found work in human resources.
"I really wanted to be in a two-income family," Styles said. "In the past, marriage was about finding somebody to take care of you. I think millennials have started a new tradition that you need to have your own career. Marriage is more like a strategic alliance."