|This article does not cite any references or sources. (March 2009)|
A person's marital status indicates whether the person is married. Questions about marital status appear on many polls and forms, including censuses. The question has historically also appeared in job applications and credit card applications and similar contexts, though the practice is increasing regarded as anachronistic, as an answer would normally not be relevant to the consideration of the merits of an application and may in fact be considered unlawful discrimination in some countries.
In the simplest sense, the only possible answers are "married" or "single". Some unmarried people object to describing themselves by a simplistic term "single", and often other options are given, such as "divorced", "widowed", widow or widower, "cohabiting", "civil union", "domestic partnership" and "unmarried partners". In some cases, knowing that people are divorced, widowed, or in a relationship is more useful than simply knowing that they are unmarried. The category of "married" would also cover the situation of the person being "separated". In many cases, people who are in a committed co-habiting relationship may describe themselves as married, and some laws (such as taxation laws) require them to do so.
In many cultures, a person may indicate their marital status in a number of ways: in Western culture a married, unseparated woman would commonly wear a wedding ring but in other cultures other markers of marital status may be used. A married woman is commonly given the honorific title "Mrs", and a single woman "Miss", but some women prefer to be referred to as "Ms", a title which does not indicate marital status. A man is given an honorific title of "Mr" irrespective of his marital status.
In a social context, a person's non-availability for an interpersonal relationship may be expressed by a marriage status of married, except in the case of "separated", and may also be expressed in descriptions such as "engaged" which may also be on display in the case of a female who would commonly wear an engagement ring. Some women may wear a wedding ring, even if unmarried, to indicate they do not wish to be propositioned.
Family status is the combination of marital status with number of children.
Marital status studied in combination with other factors also reveals a marriage gap.