Summary: A report from Pew Research Center confirms a familiar trend known to sociologists of the family: marriage is in decline. While in 1960 about 7 in 10 Americans over the age of 18 were married, by 2010 that rate had slipped to about 5 in 10. To those who see this trend as evidence that families are disappearing, the evidence appears even more grim once one examines the rate of decline among different age groups. In 1960, about 6 out of every 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 tied the knot. Today, people in that age bracket have been dubbed millennials and far fewer of them are married—only about 2 in 10 in 2010. Not surprisingly, the difference in cohort marriage rates seems to be echoed in the difference between what those cohorts say about marriage. For instance, 44% of millenials agree with the sentiment that marriage is becoming obsolete, while only 32% of people over the age of 65 agree with that view. • While the proportion of people aged 18 to 29 who are reluctant to ever get married appears to be growing, it's important to note that many millennials are just waiting longer than ever to to do it. That is, the median age at first marriage in 1960 was 20 for women and 23 for men, but by 2013, the respective ages had increased to 23 for women and 29 for men. Accompanying this delay is the fact that people appear to be much more inclined to have children out of wedlock. • Nevertheless, it is true that the institution of marriage, as Americans once understood it, appears to be changing, and by nearly every measure it is fair to say it is in decline. But to those who see the foregoing discussion as further evidence that the American family is also in decline, or in the grips of a crisis, take a breath and consider the following. Familes existed long before the advent of marriage, so there is no logical reason to assume that they will cease to exist if marriage disappears. To peer into the future of marriage and family, one must analytically uncouple the two concepts: family can exist without marriage, and marriage can exist without family. What seems clear is that families are simply continuing to change, just as they have always changed. Unlike the nuclear family of the 1950s, there is no dominant family type which casts a long shadow on all the others. In a sense, families are persisting in spite of marriage. For even more information about demographic trends related to the family, check out our Pinterest page devoted to the topic.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist