Marriage is Officially Out Of Style

For the most part, I’m not big on statistics, mainly because those scary, quiet people in little basement offices find ways to turn numbers into whatever they want them to say. However these statistics on marriage don’t surprise me, though I do find them interesting. So I’m just going to throw some numbers out there without comment.

According to the Pew Research Center, the American marriage rate hit a rock bottom of 50.3% in 2013. In 1960, the marriage rate was 72.2%. The main reason for decline? Millennials are deciding to opt out of traditional relationships and choosing instead to live at home. In 2012, 45% of 18-30 year olds lived with older family members. In 1980 it was 35%.

Also interesting, 41% of babies born today are born to single mothers. That’s 2.5 times higher than in 1980 and a whopping 19 times higher than in 1940. Additionally, Americans are also having fewer children. Nearly half of all child-bearing women did not have children in 2014, the most since the U.S. Census began tracking this statistic in 1976.

Interestingly, married men ages 28-30 make, on average $15,900 more than their single peers while married men ages 33-46 make $18, 800 more than unmarried men.

Of course the government is interested and concerned about these statistics for the reason that you might expect. Money.
You see, people who get married typically have children, buy a home, and then buy things to put in their home. Each newly created household adds approximately $145,000 to the U.S. economy, which suffers on several levels when marriage is in decline.

I come from a different generation so my comments on these statistics would sound hollow to many people. Instead I’ll let the numbers begin to tell the story, because there is a story being told here. If anyone would like to comment, please feel free. I would love to hear opinions from different ages and demographics. I’m also curious as to whether this is trending in other countries, and what your thoughts might be.

So…What’s It All About Alfie? (I just dated myself, didn’t I?)

53 thoughts on “Marriage is Officially Out Of Style

  1. abyssbrain

    It would be interesting to have a contest between accountants and statisticians on who’s better at bending numbers.

    Anyway, I just read an article a few days ago which states that the rate of divorce over here in Hong Kong is more than 40%…

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    1. George Post author

      Yes, it would be very interesting. Sad about the divorce rate being so high there. It’s hard to determine what it is in the U.S. I’ve read as high as fifty percent but others dispute that. A few years ago I read the rate was lower than it had been in some time but there was discussion about the recession contributing to that since many unhappy couples stayed together for financial reasons. In any case, it’s higher than it should be and if it is lower, the fact that less people are getting married may be contributing to those lower numbers.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. abyssbrain

        Then you also have to consider who funded the research. Maybe they have some hidden agendas for all we know…

        Yes, statistics or not, it’s really sad that there are so many couples who divorce nowadays, not just in HK, but in other countries as well… and even without statistics telling us, I think that this trend is quite obvious.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. davidprosser

    I wonder if it’s still the case that the tax breaks for two single people are better than for one married couple?Maybe younger people now choose to live together a longer time before getting married. My nephew and his now wife lived together for 7 years before committing to the ceremony while on holiday in the States. They didn’t want the traditional ceremony with guests and gifts etc. A statistic that shows people not marrying doesn’t always mean there’s a breakdown of the institution ( use your own jokes here) but perhaps that the institution is just postponed.
    Hugs

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    1. George Post author

      You’re absolutely right, David. The tax laws in this country favor single couples rather than married. Ironic that they penalize the institution that helps fuel the economy but logic was never the strong suit of a greedy government. I think it’s certainly a contributing factor for some though I’m not entirely convinced that most individuals and couples think about the financial implications of marriage when deciding whether they should get married, though some do, as you pointed out. I think the reasons for the decrease in these rates go much deeper but the tax breaks cannot be ignored as a considering factor.

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  3. joylovestravel

    Similar statistics in this country George. Shame marriage might be going out of style, it has a lot to recommend it I think. I married in my mid 20’s, we’ve been married 21 years, not a bed of roses (ask my husband!!) but I’m still all for it.

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    1. George Post author

      I agree, Joy. I’m saddened by the decreasing commitment to this institution, understanding at the same time that not everyone should be married, nor should everyone have children.

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    1. George Post author

      Ahh..someone who got the Alfie reference. I feel better now. I’m curious, did your daughter give a reason for taking so long to get married? Was it financial or just a comfort thing?

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      1. vanbytheriver

        She was conflicted about the big wedding that her husband (an only child) figured that his very large family was expecting. They were busy with careers, moving from city to city, etc. and just didn’t deem it important. They finally had a NYC civil ceremony and told us all after the fact. Mixed reactions !

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Dale

    It’s funny because in Quebec, marriage was almost a taboo for a while. There are still a lot who opt for living-together-without-formality yet I am seeing more and more people changing their minds and opting for marriage. A lot of cases only get married to protect the spouse in case of death. You do not have the same benefits if you are officially married vs just living together. A former co-worker recently got married – after 30 years of co-habitating!!

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    1. George Post author

      I’m always curious how these trends stack up in other counties. Now you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong because I’ve only been to Quebec once many years ago but I remember it being as close to France as you can get in North America in mentality, language, etc. Since I’ve always believed Europe is much more open minded about lifestyle, your comment doesn’t surprise me. I can understand the whole point about benefits. Common Law marriages in this country, which relates to people living together but not formally married has its own set of laws. Interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Dale

        Having never been to France (sigh… yet!) I cannot say for sure but I have heard they are quite a bit more liberal than even the rest of Canada (which are more prudish – kinda like Americans!!). Same here. You can be taxed as a couple when common-law, you can share dental, medical benefits; however, you can NOT benefit from old age pensions after death (which is the main reason people finally decide to tie the knot)

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  5. Lekha murali

    I read through the article hoping to read your opinion or insights. Hope you’ll add that to the article at some point.

    Anyways, the way I read these numbers, with 41% percent of babies being born to single mothers and nearly half the millennials choosing to live with their parents means that the many 21 year old men choose not to become adults, by living independently and take on adult responsibilities? I am just presuming this because the numbers are not parsed.

    Well, I am from India and there women are getting married at a much older age, meaning these women or should I say their parents are willing to wait past 25 years of age, to get their daughter married. This is in the urban areas. This has a cascading impact in the rural areas too.

    Its still a country where marriages are largely arranged. But that has changed quite dramatically in the past generation.

    More women are getting higher education and getting into well paid jobs, while there is a decline among men in higher education which consequently affects their job opportunities, which contributes to the woman’s or should I say the daughter’s marriage age to go up.

    To me what this means is that Indian women have more of an opportunity to be empowered.

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    1. George Post author

      Hi Lekha..thank you for your perspective from India. Your comments about the decline in higher education for men and an increase for women creating greater opportunity are very interesting, especially when coupled with the decrease in arranged marriages. I didn’t give my opinion purposely because I didn’t want to influence comments here but I think your words about men specifically living at home and not accepting certain responsibilities is an argument than can be made. As in India, couples here are waiting longer to get married. That trend has been in place for some time now.
      Thank you again for responding.

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      1. Lekha murali

        You are welcome. I hope you would add your opinion to the piece at some point.

        By the way, that Alfie character, is it the one played by Michael Caine, in a movie by the same title?

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    2. Lekha murali

      Yessss….I had a feeling that was it. I haven’t seen the movie, but a remake was made starring Jude law and so I remember either reading about it or watching something that on television. I don’t know why it stuck in my head. I have seen a lot of Michael Caine movies.

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  6. A.PROMPTreply

    My husband and I sometimes feel like relics of a lost age, George. It is so strange to think being (and staying) married is now the oddity. Also, the stat about the 18-30 year-olds living at home scares me! Why is this? I loved my parents, but I couldn’t wait to get out and make my own place in the world….

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Dale

      Our job as parents is to ensure that they are no longer comfortable at home! So many parents make it quasi-impossible to leave: they feed them, do their laundry, create their own space almost like an apartment…they’d be nuts to leave!
      Inwas 21 and there was no way in hell I was ever going back!

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      1. A.PROMPTreply

        Hah! You’re right. I have one out and on his own…don’t think he’ll ever be back under our roof for any extended period. This 15-year-old…we’re working on him…..he seems determined to be comfortable so I always chime in and make him keep things neat and keep socks on his feet…..annoying enough to make him want his own space I hope! LOL

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Dale

        Exactly! You are on the right track! My boys are 17 and 15…I don’t think the 17 year old will tarry….he can’t wait to get out (sometimes)!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. A.PROMPTreply

        I have been told I am “annoying” which I take as a good sign that eventually, I will finally have the neat house (i.e. no child trails throughout) I’ve craved for years…probably I’ll miss it then, but right now, it sure seems appealing….

        Liked by 1 person

      4. George Post author

        I agree, Dale. There are too many parents enabling their children. I’m sure they do it with good intentions in mind but at some point you have to treat them like adults, not ten a ten year old dependent child. You’re right, what incentive is there for them to leave.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. George Post author

      You make very valid points. My wife and I have been married 42 years and, like you we sometimes feel out of place but thankfully most of our friends and family are in long term marriages. Yes, the stat on 18-30 year olds is curious on many levels.

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      1. Dale

        I think my family is on the right track! My sister just celebrated 25 years of marriage, the other one is celebrating 19 (though 25 years together) and Mick and I would have celebrated 20 years this 25th of June… Pretty good, eh?

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  7. Mindy

    This is a really interesting post because when I think of marriage and divorce, I don’t really think of statistics. I think a lot of people rush to get married and sometimes it works out for the best and sometimes it doesn’t. My friends all joke about me getting engaged soon, but I don’t really want to. The thought kind of scares me (despite being with some one whom I believe I would be happily married to) because it seems too soon. I think of the future, and I wouldn’t want a divorce so I figure with time, we’ll be more certain of what the future holds. Maybe that’s naive? I need to think about this a bit more.

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    1. George Post author

      I agree, Mindy. Marriage and divorce should not be associated with statistics but numbers seem to dictate almost every aspect of our lives, from marketing to ratings to advertising, etc. your reason for not rushing into marriage are valid. I’m not sure how long you’ve been in your current relationship but there are people who have been with the same person for five or six years and are still unsure. I think that’s a sign. Still others come from a home life that included divorced or unhappy parents which may influence their feelings on marriage. Again, all valid reasons for second guessing your decision or being scared to commit. Too often people get married for the wrong reasons and have children for the same wrong reasons. I don’t think you can throw a blanket on this topic with a specific answer. The reasons are too varied. That being said, these reasons are not unique to this specific period of time. I think what may be different is an inability for people today to commit long term, but I may be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time…:) I also think men are more reluctant to commit and accept responsibility, which is why I enjoy hearing from people your age. I always seem to learn something new.

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  8. In My Cluttered Attic

    Well George, I loved Michael Caine, but Jude Law wasn’t bad. Oh wait, I really dated myself. But, I think it is the fear of commitment and perhaps what it cost people in a divorce. In the end it comes down to people wondering what would happen if they are not compatible sexually or otherwise, so living together gets a shot. As for the figures, different groups commissioned to do studies on the subject can twist the numbers to suit their purpose. ;O)

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    1. George Post author

      I agree, Paul. The financial aspect of failure might be a factor in their decisions, though if you’re thinking of divorce before you’re even married, that can’t be a very good sign. And you’re right, numbers are easy to manipulate. Maybe we should get Michael Caine to run the digits for us and get an accurate accounting of what’s really going on…:)

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  9. ericafuni

    Figured I would weigh in since I’m from that generation of which you speak 😉 From what I’ve seen with my friends (AKA a very small percentage of the population that obviously doesn’t reflect 20 something’s as a whole) it seems that marriage is happening – just later. These times, they are a changin’. There isn’t as much pressure to be married young, people are taking the time to get their careers in order, pay off loans (a big one) before they make that next step. I think it’s pretty responsible but I’m probably biased. Also, I think that many are a product of divorce and would rather get married at 35 to the right person than 23 to the wrong one since they’ve seen that happen with their parents, their friends’ parents, etc. Just my (like I said, biased) 2 cents 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Makes perfect sense Erica. I understand all of those reasons and they’re all valid. Finances line student loans or finding a job with some security ( if that even exists any more) are all reasons to start a little later. The trend to marriage later in years has been moving upward for some time now. But these reasons can also be used as an excuse. I’m not saying that’s the case because I think every situation and person is different. But it’s possible people look for reasons not to commit rather reasons for wanting to seal the deal, so to speak. The more concerning statistics are those involving individuals who are living home with family. At some point you have to take charge of your life and accept the responsibility of creating your own way, with all the bumps the come along with it. Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I enjoy hearing thoughts from different generations.

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      1. ericafuni

        Totally agree about needing to take control of your life. I was living on my own (with roommates) 2 months after graduating college so I can’t really weigh in on that aspect. And yes, every situation is different. It’s certainly interesting to see the statistics. I wonder where those numbers will be in another 20 or 30 years.

        Liked by 1 person

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