Marriage in the United States has been changing in many ways over the past several decades – but the tradition of women taking their husband’s last name is still going strong. In a new Pew Research Center survey, we asked married people whether they changed their last name after marriage.
How we did this
Pew Research Center asked 2,437 U.S. adults in opposite-sex marriages whether they changed or kept their last name when they got married. We also asked 955 U.S. adults who have never been married what they would do if they got married. The questions used in this analysis are part of a larger survey of 5,073 U.S. adults conducted April 10-16, 2023.
Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. Address-based sampling ensures that nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Most women in opposite-sex marriages (79%) say they took their spouse’s last name when they got married. Another 14% kept their last name, and 5% hyphenated both their name and their spouse’s name.
Among men in opposite-sex marriages, the vast majority (92%) say they kept their last name. Just 5% took their spouse’s last name, and less than 1% hyphenated both names.
The numbers of women and men in same-sex marriages in the sample are too small to analyze separately.
We also asked people of all sexual orientations who have never been married whether they would change their last name if they got married.
Women who have never been married have mixed views on this: 33% say they would take their spouse’s last name, 23% would keep their last name, 17% would hyphenate both names and 24% aren’t sure.
Among men, 73% say they would keep their last name, and 20% aren’t sure. Just 4% say they would hyphenate both names and 2% say they would take their spouse’s last name.
Which women are more likely to have kept their last name after marriage?
Some women in opposite-sex marriages are more likely than others to say they kept their last name after getting married. They include:
- Younger women: 20% of married women ages 18 to 49 say they kept their last name, compared with 9% of those ages 50 and older.
- Women with a postgraduate degree: 26% of married women with a postgraduate degree kept their last name, compared with 13% of those with a bachelor’s degree and 11% of those with some college or less education.
- Democratic women: Democratic and Democratic-leaning women are twice as likely as Republican and Republican-leaning women to say they kept their last name (20% vs. 10%). While moderates in each party are about equally likely to say they kept their last name, liberal Democratic women are the most likely to say this (25%), and conservative Republican women are the least likely (7%).
- Hispanic women: 30% of Hispanic women say they kept their last name, compared with 10% of White women and 9% of Black women. Black women are more likely than White women to say they hyphenated their and their spouse’s last names, and White women are the most likely to say they took their husband’s last name. (There aren’t enough married Asian women in the sample to analyze separately.)
For women who have never been married, the sample size is not large enough to look at demographic differences in what they say they would do.