High proportions of never married women past age 30 or 35, which are typical for most Western countries, are indicative of the substantial loss of opportunities for childbearing within formal marital unions. Rapidly growing celibacy among younger women will most probably raise further the proportion of women who would never marry during their reproductive lifespan. Although in Eastern Europe formal marriage remains highly popular among women in prime reproductive age, its prevalence began to decline. The parallel and abrupt fall of the total marriage rate, which occurred in the 1990s in most developed countries and attained 0.6 to 0.7 first marriages per woman, suggests that formal marriage is receding everywhere.
In Northern and Western Europe and the United States, the spread of cohabitation compensates for the delay of formal marriage and the decrease of nuptiality during the reproductive lifespan: the proportion of women, who, by age 25, entered either a formal or informal union, remains stable at 70 to 80 per cent. In Southern Europe cohabitation does not compensate for delayed formal marriage: as a result, only 65 to 75 per cent of women enter a first relationship by age 25. Eastern Asia is similar to Southern Europe.