Marriage has been declining. In the 1960s, men and women could be expected to get married between the ages of 20 and 23. Today, men and women get married between the ages of 27 and 29 — if at all. According to research, up to 25% of the millennial generation may never get married at all. But why?
At first glance, it might seem as simple as millennials just placing a different cultural value on marriage as an institution. These sort of changes between generations happen all the time. But new research reveals there is a more financial reason for falling marriage rates.
Marriage Has Lost Some Of Its Shine
The social and religious pressures behind marriage have eased off. In the past, it was considered to be appropriate to marry someone before cohabitating with them. Today, cohabitation is the norm. Thus, young couples no longer feel any real pressure to get married, and can put it off indefinitely.
But apart from that, marriage tends to be a major expenditure. With many people living paycheck-to-paycheck (especially millennials), many have cited financial reasons as a reason that they won’t get married. And that may be true, but it may also be deeper than that.
Blue Collar Work Tied to Marriage and Child Bearing Rates
A year ago, vanishing manufacturing jobs were tied to reduced rates of marriage. Areas with larger numbers of manufacturing jobs generally had higher instances of marriage. Why? Because men with blue collar jobs were able to achieve greater levels of financial stability, and therefore support a family.
For two single individuals, there isn’t much of a reason to get married. For two parents, on the other hand, there is. Manufacturing jobs (and therefore steady, stable work) have been disappearing due to a myriad of factors, ranging from automation to overseas outsourcing.
When men aren’t able to support families, both parties need to work. When both parties need to work, and they aren’t able to afford to have children, there’s limited reason to get married.
New Study Tracks “Economically Unattractive” Men
A study by Cornell University noted that women are increasingly finding men economically unattractive. Women reported that their desired salary for a mate was about 58% greater than the men available had. But, the standards actually weren’t that high: women were primarily interested in men with either a Bachelor’s Degree or an income of more than $40,000. The problem is that wages are decreasing rather than rising.
The fastest growing jobs in America currently pay $24,000. This indicates that women aren’t getting married because they don’t feel confident about their financial future: they feel as though their spouse won’t be able to provide if they have children, and they don’t feel that there’s any pressing need to get married.
That doesn’t mean that women are foregoing relationships, even long-term relationships that would be very similar to marriage. However, with the tax and legal benefits removed, the younger generation may not see much reason for marriage.
Is Economic Unattractiveness a Viable Reason to Turn Down a Mate?
Experts note that women themselves are now earning more and producing more economically, and they may come to expect their spouses to provide as much as they can. Finances are the leading reason why divorces occur, so it makes sense that people are looking for someone financially stable. Women have historically governed the household, but having to govern the household and be a primary breadwinner may be too taxing.
At the same time, there’s something to be said for the increasing “pickiness” of people in general. More people today are single than before: over half of young individuals aren’t in a relationship. Some have accused online dating of having a hand in this: with a “grass is always greener” point of view, it’s more difficult to commit.
Others point out that financial difficulties can make it difficult for people to maintain relationships at all, as they are more focused on their career and their education. Unfortunately, this contributes to an aging workforce and a shrinking population, which is something that many advanced countries are struggling with today.
The bottom line: marriage is fading away, and people are increasingly staying single. At least part of this appears to be because of vanishing jobs and lowered male wages, which is making it less attractive for women to get married and have children. A better economy, which can support stay-at-home parents of either gender, is likely needed to alleviate this.