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Washington Post

The number of people in long-lasting marriages increased over the past decade as divorce rates leveled off and life expectancies rose, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.

More than half of all currently married couples - 55 percent - have been together at least 15 years, and 35 percent have marked their 25th anniversaries. Six percent have been married more than 50 years. The number of couples reaching their silver and golden anniversaries is 1 to 2 percentage points higher than in 1996, census demographers reported.

Among all people who were 15 or older in 2009, 55 percent had been married just once, the census figures showed. About 30 percent had never married, while 15 percent had wed more than once. Most of those, 12 percent, had married twice. But 3 percent had married three or more times.

Most couples who divorce seem to recognize their marriage isn't working long before they get to a landmark anniversary. First marriages that ended in divorce lasted a median of eight years. The median time from marriage to separation was about seven years. Half of both men and women who divorced remarried within about four years, the census said.

There also was a sizable leap in the proportion of recently married women who had attended college and earned at least a bachelor's degree. In 1996, 21 percent of newly married women had. By 2009, it had risen to 31 percent. The census also noted that changes in the percentage of women who had never married between 1986 and 2009 suggest that a higher proportion of black women than white, non-Hispanic women may never marry.