Here comes the bride, all dressed in whi– wait a minute, not so fast.
According to a recent report from Pew Research, it is predicted that more people under the age of 35 will be single forever. Forever? Yes, forever and ever.
The number of Americans who have never been married, and are likely to never do so, is at an historic high, based on data from the report. This is in part due to the fact that many do not have jobs or feel financially secure enough, and also because traditional views on marriage have dramatically changed. Marriage isn’t as highly regarded as it was in past generations. Over the course of the last four years, the number of young singles who want to get married significantly decreased, as attitudes have shifted.
Based on census data and Pew’s own surveys, the report is the latest to project that marriage rates are sharply declining. Young people are saving marriage for later in life, choosing to focus on their education and establishing careers before walking down the aisle — if they decide to walk down the aisle at all. Nearly 20% of Americans older than 25 had never been married in 2012, up from 9% in 1960. The numbers are even starker in the black community, with 36% of black Americans older than 25 having never married, which is nearly four times the number from 50 years ago.
So why are so many people choosing not to get hitched anymore? According to the study, 30% of people have yet to find the right person, 27% did not feel financially ready or stable enough, and 22% are simply not ready to settle down. However, researchers aren’t quick to label this as the new normal just yet.
Some young people are putting off tying the knot, and while many are choosing instead to live together in long-term relationships, the number of couples moving in together in lieu of getting married is still lower than one might think. “Cohabitation is much less common than marriage and cohabiting relationships are much less stable than marriages,” says Kim Parker, co-author of the study. “It’s hard to imagine marriage being replaced any time soon.”
The Pew researchers also managed to squeeze out other reasons by asking participants what they wanted in a spouse. The majority of women are choosing practicality over romance, and want a husband with a stable job, followed closely by similar beliefs in raising children, which was the exact same quality men desired in a spouse.
In 1960, 93% of men between the ages of 25 and 34 were employed, compared to 82% in 2012. Young men who are employed now just aren’t bringing home as much bacon as they did at one time. Factoring in inflation, the median hourly wage of men ages 25 to 34 are up to a fifth less than what they were in 1980. Also, women are contributing to the labor force in much higher numbers, with some earning higher salaries than their counterparts. While there are more single and available men than women, there are substantially fewer employed men who are single than employed women.
However, postponing marriage may be smart, as divorce rates continue to increase across the United States. Perhaps after seeing their own parents’ marriages end in divorce, millennials are wary about rushing down the aisle. Several studies have indicated that marriages are more likely to be healthier, and therefore last longer, when people marry at an older age, have a higher education, and earn more money.
This doesn’t mean that marriage is falling out of favor, but instead illustrates how attitudes regarding the American dream have changed.