Millennials & Marriage Trends

Posted On August 8, 2016

Millennials are getting married later than their parents and grandparents did. Statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center a couple of years ago showed that only 26 percent of millennials got married between the ages of 18 and 32, compared to 36 percent of Gen-Xers, 48 percent of Baby Boomers and 65 percent of what it calls the “Silent” generation, taken from the 1960 census.

Some may suggest that this is a product of millennials being the Participation Trophy Generation. Young adults who were always praised as children and never allowed to fail might logically be expected to have difficulty making big decisions when there is no longer a safety net, particularly when a wrong choice might have long-lasting, disastrous effects.

You came in 23rd, Billy. Here’s your ribbon. Good job.

While these issues are no doubt very real for many millennials, others will be quick to tell you that many of the stereotypes commonly associated with them are as much the product of the economic pressures of the day as the way in which they were brought up. And there are certainly economic and societal conditions that may be keeping millennials from popping the question.

Student loan debt is the highest it’s ever been, with the average 2016 college graduate carrying more than $37,000 in debt. Incomes and the housing market haven’t fully recovered from the Great Recession. The Pew Research Center study found that 69 percent of unmarried millennials wanted to marry, but cited the lack of a “solid economic foundation” as a primary reason why they hadn’t.

On top of that, societal norms have changed. At one time, a woman who wasn’t married by age 30 was considered a “spinster.” Now, it’s not uncommon to see people in their late 30s, 40s or even older tying the knot for the first time.

Look at those numbers again that I cited in the opening paragraph. Sixty-five percent of the silent generation got married between ages 18 and 32. Forty-eight percent of Baby Boomers. Thirty-six percent of Generation X. And 26 percent of millennials.

That’s a double-digit decrease for each generation as compared to the last. That is what we call a trend.

The reasons for it aren’t difficult to pinpoint. Despite ever-rising tuition and student-loan debt, more Americans are going to college – undergraduate enrollment jumped from 13.2 million to 17.3 million between 2000 and 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and is expected to approach 20 million by 2025.

There’s also been a huge increase of women in professional careers. Women made up nearly half the labor force in 2012, compared to only 38 percent in 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of women in the workforce more than doubled during that time span, rising from less than 32,000 to more than 72,000.

With a higher percentage of Americans attending college and a larger number of women entering the professional workforce, we have a higher percentage of young Americans who are intent on focusing on their careers through their mid-20s than in previous generations. And that means fewer of them are thinking about getting married at that age.

So yes, it may be true that millennials are less prepared for marriage. But it’s also likely true that they’re more prepared, or at least more focused, on their careers and on navigating the economic pitfalls ahead of them.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials