Millennials are saying no to traditional marriage in record numbers…and that’s not all. In Western culture in the late 18th century, marriage transformed from an economic arrangement into a union based on love. Now it may again be heading toward radical change.
Marriage Rates Are Plummeting
The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men — up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.
The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men
Today an unprecedented portion of millennials will remain unmarried through age 40, a recent Urban Institute report predicted. The marriage rate might drop to 70 percent -- a figure well below rates for boomers (91 percent), late boomers (87 percent) and Gen Xers (82 percent). And declines might be even sharper if marriage rates recover slowly, or not at all, from pre-recession levels, according to the report.
Traditional marriage has been on a downward trajectory for generations, but with this group it appears to be in free fall. According to a report released last month by the Pew Research Center, 25 percent of millennials are likely to never be married.
That would be the highest share in modern history.
The Impact of Not Getting Married
Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane says this trend could be cause for alarm. "Millennials, reject timely marriage at your own risk," warns his column.
“Not getting married at all could prove tragic,” said Keane, reviewing the economic and social benefits of marriage.
Marriage patterns will continue to diverge by education and race, increasing the divides between mostly married “haves” and increasingly single “have-nots,” predicted an internal analysis of the Urban Institute report. Tax rates, eligibility for entitlement programs, and the availability of social safety nets are all altered by marital status, it said. Current marriage trends will make it challenging to develop policies that efficiently target the needs of the growing number of unmarried poor, it said.
“To me, there are so many things that encourage people to marry for financial reasons," said Steven Weisman, a lawyer who teaches a class on "Marriage, Separation and Divorce" class at Bentley University, in a Baltimore Sun article. From Social Security to income taxes, married couples benefit economically.
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