Why People Aren’t Getting Married
A recent piece in Time Magazine was headlined, “Why 25 percent of millennials will never get married— a new report from Pew Research predicts that more folks under 35 will be single forever."
The 21st Century trend of young couples opting to live together and putting off marriage for later, if at all, is seemingly the new norm. According to a current Pew Research and analysis survey about one fourth of unmarried young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are cohabiting.
Socially speaking, marriage has lost much of its allure, but still remains the desired pinnacle and end zone for about 70 percent of millennials. They say they would like to marry, but many — especially those with lower levels of income and education — lack what they deem to be a necessary prerequisite for a successful marriage. That being a solid economic foundation.
When compared to the paradigms of the past, when adults in all socio-economic groups married at roughly the same rate, marriage today is more prevalent among those with higher incomes and more education, according to the Pew research.
Even as marriage rates have plummeted — particularly for the young and the less educated — Gallup survey data show that young singles very much hope to get hitched.
“Although there is now a growing class divide in who gets and stays married in America, there is virtually no divide in the aspiration to marry,” according to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, white, black or Hispanic. Most Americans are married or would like to marry. The challenge, then, facing the United States is bridging the gap between the nearly universal aspiration to marry and the growing inability of poor and working-class Americans to access marriage,” said Wilcox.
What does Marriage Mean
Fewer millennials choosing to marry showcases the idea that modern social attitudes perceive the institution as outdated. It's time to embrace new ideas about romance and family — and acknowledge the end of traditional marriage as society's highest ideal, according to Kate Bolick, author of the 2011 Atlantic cover story, "All the Single Ladies".
Public disenchantment with marriage is reflected in national surveys. Half of American adults believe society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children, according to the recent Pew report.
And opinions on this issue differ sharply by age — with young adults much more likely to say society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children. Older adults tend to disagree. Fully two-thirds of adults ages 18 to 29 (67 percent) express this viewpoint, as do 53 percent of those ages 30 to 49. Among those ages 50 and older, most (55 percent) say society is better off if people make marriage and children a priority, Pew found.
how has Marriage Evolved?
But what if marriage stopped forcing young people to conform to an outdated tradition?
This hot topic was explored by Psychology Today’s Susan Pease Gadoua’s in a recent opinion piece, "Millennials are Changing the Rules on Marriage."
Marriage offers unquestionable benefits, she wrote, but it’s a stale paradigm. “Rather than having only a choice to marry the same old way, or to not marry, let’s get a little imaginative and come up with marital options that would be better suited to a variety of people, including a short-term trial union for younger couples, a child-rearing marriage for those who’d like to be nothing more than co-parents, or a socially acceptable live apart arrangement.”
A recent article in Time Magazine suggests a beta-marriage in which millennials test-drive their nuptials before jumping into what is supposed to be a lifelong commitment. Margaret Mead, a woman well ahead of her time, threw this notion out in the 1960s; in 2002, journalist and author, Pamela Paul, wrote a book on starter marriages, and; in 2011, Mexico City proposed laws supporting two-year renewable marriage contracts.
The overall forces of biology, social needs and economics will never let some form of long-term partnership fade away, says Bentley University’s Dean of Arts and Sciences Daniel Everett.
The definition of marriage has been fluid over time and between cultures, he said. “In American marriages, as they have evolved, the ideal is to marry by mutual consent and build first and foremost a relationship,” said Everett.
“Among some Amazonian societies, the marriage relationship is first an economic partnership, with clear division of labor, from which a relationship may develop,” he said. “Among more religious societies, such as rural Catholic in southern Mexico, there is some overlap with the Amazonian. And the American rural model is economy first, relationship second, with clear division of labor, and the added sanction of religion.”
Will the millennial generation usher in a new era that saves American marriage by allowing it to evolve? Radical as it may seem, they just might.