C-SPAN did a segment on Families and Living Arrangements with Jonathan Vespa from the US Census Bureau. What follows are some of the trends on marriage and relationships in the United States that I found particularly interesting. It’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that the institution of marriage, and even the ideal of a marriage found of lifelong monogamy is fading. What will marriage and family look like at the end of 21st century? If the trends continue, then marriage in its traditional form will not survive the half-century mark, but perhaps social norms progress not in a straight light but in a spiral, and 2050s will look much more like the 1950s than the world of today.
Married with Children: Declined by Half
The following trend shows that married couples with children declined from 40% to 20% since 1970. Of course, what is not shown is un-married couples living together with or without children. That’s the group that is on the rise. In other words, marriage is less and less a thing that’s a requirement for a stable household.
Don’t Get Married Until Your 30th Birthday
Not only are we getting married less, we’re also waiting longer. The median age of first marriage for men went from 23 to 29 in the last 60 years. For women the age went from 20 to 27. I just turned 30 last month. Despite my mom’s strongest wishes, this does not mean I will initiate a rigorous search for a spouse. Like many over-educated men of my generation, I’m in no hurry to marry, unless it is to someone I feel a deep connection with.
You’re Not Alone Even When You’re So Very Alone
“Alone” here is defined as “a household of one”. To me that sounds like a proud stand against the forces of convention. More and more people are taking such a stand. The increase is from 13% to 27% in the last 50 years. I suspect I will eventually break down and allow a nice lady friend to invade my humble cave of solitude, but at this time I’m still holding on to the productive days of living without a care in world, loving life and loving work.
You can find more statistics from this report in this PDF document.