Marriage is becoming obsolete

Tying the knot isn’t as prevalent for young adult’s today as it was for their parents.

by Julian Switala

   IâÄôve been invited to several weddings this upcoming summer. While IâÄôm not getting married any time soon, these invitations have spurred me to consider whether I want to get married at all.

   These thoughts come in light of new surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, a self-proclaimed nonpartisan âÄúfact tankâÄù, which analyzes recent trends in both marriage and parenthood.

   One stark change which may not be surprising is that less Americans are married now than they were in past decades. Whereas in 1960 almost 70 percent of Americans were married, now only about 50 percent will ever tie the proverbial knot.

   For 20-somethings, about 66 percent were married in 1960. Today only a measly 26 percent of us are married. And if youâÄôre thinking about graduating from college, then you have a 64 percent chance of getting hitched which is almost 20 percentage points higher than those with no post-secondary education.

   One possible explanation for this marriage gap could be the continuously growing income gap.

   Even with marriage declining among nearly all groups in society, tying the knot is still the norm for adults who have a high income, which is positively correlated with having had a college education.

   Similarly, marriage is less prevalent among Americans who are lower on the socio-economic ladder, and not just because weddings have become increasingly expensive in the past few years.

   Part of the reason is that those who have a lower income consider economic security to be a higher priority than getting married, and even see economic security as a prerequisite for marriage.

   This isnâÄôt a far cry from the 1960s and earlier when Americans married each other out of economic necessity, and even today couples still get hitched for this very reason âÄî in addition to love, probably.

   Yet the total number of marriages isnâÄôt the only statistic that has changed. Attitudes toward marriage and the valuation of marriage are also changing.

   Pew polled a group of Millennials, 18 to 29 year olds, and compared it with the results of a similar poll of Generation Xers, 18 to 29 year olds polled in 1997, as well as the current views of Baby Boomers, and individuals older than 65 years old.

   The Pew survey revealed changing opinions regarding cohabitation, or living together as unmarried parents.

   One such attitudinal shift is that the youth are more likely to positively assess cohabitation without marriage than their elders.

   While all of the current explanations for this noticeable swing in opinion are entirely speculative, a potentially related correlation may be that cohabitation has become more widespread. In fact, the frequency of cohabitation has almost doubled over the past 21 years, according to the United States Census Bureau.

   The same positive assessment is also held toward family forms that are relatively more prevalent nowadays, such as same-sex marriages, interracial marriages and stepfamilies.

   According to Pew, almost half of all American adults have at least one relative defined as a step or half sibling, a stepchild, or a stepparent.

   Nevertheless, individuals still feel a slightly stronger bond to their biological family as opposed to their steprelatives. For instance, Americans would be about 30 percent more willing to assist with financial problems or care giving when a parent or a child is in dire straits than for a stepparent or a stepsibling. Woe for the single stepchild in the family.

   Yet even with this conspicuous hierarchy of family members, both stepfamily members and biological family members rank above oneâÄôs best friend in regards to this sense of obligation.

   The obvious explanation for these changes lies in the increases in divorce rates and the number of children born out of wedlock, both of which directly contribute to the rise in and acceptance of stepfamilies and steprelatives.

   Even with this change in familial demographics, both those with and without steprelatives rate their family as the most important component in their lives. For instance, about 70 percent of American adults with at least one steprelative report that they are very satisfied with their familial situation.

   This is slightly less than those who donâÄôt have any steprelatives (78 percent satisfied). This small difference may be because no one plans or anticipates having a steprelative in oneâÄôs life.

   Speaking from my personal experience, I am glad I have a stepsister and definitely think my family life is the better for it.

   While IâÄôm not planning on getting married any time soon, I would be perfectly fine with throwing a wedding.

   Sure, the preparation for a wedding seems unbelievably tiresome and arduous, but a party with all of your friends, family you rarely see and more presents than you could imagine probably outweighs any disadvantages. Throw in several free cake tastings and sign me up!

   Sorry Beyoncé, but putting a ring on it just may not be necessary anymore.