First comes love, then comes marriage? Not so fast. Surveys show that millennials are becoming more hesitant to say "I do," with fewer couples choosing to get married before starting families. Nearly half of women under 35 carry out childbirths outside of marriage, reports NPR, and across the board, there has been a seismic shift in a preference toward marriage in both single and coupled adults — fewer people want to do it. Unplanned pregnancies no longer incentivize jumping the broom in younger generations, a primary factor being financial instability.
“Instead of marriage being a vehicle into adulthood and stability,” reports NPR, “young adults now see it as the cherry on top, the thing you do once you're established and financially secure.” This is, however, becoming far more difficult as a result of accrued student debt with high interest rates and an increasingly polarized middle class. The modern economic climate makes the prospect of settling down far less realistic and desirable, for instance, than it was for our parents and grandparents.
Recently, CNN Money reported that only 69.3 percent of women say they will wed by the time they turn 40 — and that's if the economy improves. Almost 77 percent will marry if the economy returns to its status pre-downturn.
"Fifty years ago, when people graduated high school they could go out and get a manufacturing job and have a pretty good wage, you know, some benefits," Arielle Kuperberg, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, tells NPR. However those wages have been on a steady decline since the 1970s, and the unemployment rate has nearly doubled.
Millennial disillusionment with marriage could also be a result of watching their baby boomer parents set the highest generational rate of divorce, surmises NPR, which seems like a perfectly reasonable theory. However Forbes suggests that this may be a result of an “unbundling of love and sex.” In their findings, only 21 percent of millennials list their status as married — nearly half of that reported by their parents at the same age. “Boomers and the pill started it but Gen Y seems determined to finish the job,” writes T. Scott Gross. “What Boomer could have imagined a product bundle of lubricant, condoms, and discount movie tickets?” What, indeed.
So what’s the takeaway here? Essentially, we’ve decided as a generation that marriage is not, as previously believed, the answer to a happy relationship (go figure). Alas! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and certainly don’t throw a ring on it if the time isn’t right.