Number of adults getting married reaches all-time low
Among U.S. adults, marriage is a less popular institution than ever. Barely over half of U.S. adults are married now, and of them, many had never been married. But is this a good thing, or a bad thing, for society?
New research shows that fewer American adults than ever before are getting married.
Statistics from the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday, show 51 percent of adults in the United States are now married — a record low.
In 2010, another Pew survey found that four in ten Americans thought marriage had become obsolete. That said, it also found that most people who had never married (61 percent) would like to do so someday.
Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University, said there are costs and benefits with these statistics.
"If you want to look at the good news, what this is telling us is, especially among young adults, people are waiting longer to get married, they're taking time to get established in their own lives, to decide who they are and what kind of partner they want," Gerson said. "And they're holding a really high standard to marriage. They want to be married and to maintain a long-term and enduring marriage."
Sandy Banks, a Los Angeles Times columnist who has written about marriage and race, said, generationally, we've changed from viewing marriage as a starting point, to viewing it more as just one more step along the road to a happy life.
"It usually, in our minds now, comes after we have an education, we have a good career, we have all these other foundational things established," Banks said.
And while that generally sounds like a good thing, Banks said as she watches her daughters, she wonders if it will ultimately work out the way they want it.
"As you get older, you get more picky and you get more baggage. I'm not sure it's a good thing," Banks said.
Gerson said, what matters in the long-run, is how well this works out for individuals, which is different question from how it works for society.
"The reason this is happening, whether you want to judge it positively or negatively, is there are several major changes that are changing how young adults go about making their lives," Gerson said.
Among them, people are living longer and have more opportunities to postpone life-long commitment, as well as the increasing number of ways families can be built.
Plus, the rise of women in the workforce and the increasing equality between them and men in jobs means that both men and women have more choices, Gerson said.
"Marriage is no longer a compulsory choice. It's a voluntary choice we can make, and that means we hold ourselves to higher standards in marriage," Gerson said.
Banks said for black women, there's another especially prominent factor, which is that more black women are pursuing higher education and putting off marriage. Plus, a much higher portion of black women are in college, when compared to black men, she said.
"For a lot of women, that is where you find your mate, or at least where you decide what you want in a mate," she said. "If you're in a place where there aren't a lot of men that you can choose from, I think you're less inclined to get married."
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