STUDENT WRITERS: Why fewer people Are Getting Married

The Town Line presents the STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Grace Kelso (China)
Junior at Erskine Academy

Growing up, many Americans believed they would get a job, buy a house, get married and start a family. However, it seems that for many Americans, life did not turn out that way. The amount of marriages that happen every year in the US is at an all time low at two million a year. This is half a million less than its peak in the early 1980s. The marriage rate is also at a record low at a little more than 50 percent which peaked at 70 percent in 1967. This percentage is only likely to decrease. The Pew Research Center has estimated that by the time today’s young adults are 50, over 25 percent of them will have been single their entire lives.

Americans are also getting married later in life. The median age for first marriages reached a record high in 2018 with most men getting married at age 30 and women, 28. However, many people don’t want to get married at all. The Pew Research Center found that 14 percent of never-married adults say they don’t plan to marry at all, and another 27 percent aren’t sure whether they want to get married. There are many things that could have caused these trends, such as the change in gender roles and more gender equality, increasing financial instability, and the increasing benefits of staying single.

One explanation for why fewer people are getting married is the changing gender roles and more gender equality in today’s society. In the past, men were expected to be the ones to work and earn money to support their families. Women were not expected to work and instead take care of the home and children. This is not the case anymore. Having to take care of the home and raising children while still working full time is too much for some women, and most women are not willing to give up their career to become full time housewives. Also, women today are more educated than men and earn close to the same income. Women no longer have an incentive to marry for financial security because most women can financially support themselves. This change in gender roles and more gender equality in today’s society makes marriage seem like something of the past, which could explain the drop in marriage rates.

Another explanation could be the increasing financial instability among young adults. In 2017 the Pew Research Center found that 41 percent of single adults who wanted to get married in the future said that financial stability was a major reason why they had not married yet. Getting married and starting a family is a huge financial decision and many young people feel like they are not financially stable enough to make a life long commitment such as getting married. One reason for this financial instability is the record high amount of student loan debt in the U.S.. Americans collectively owe $1.7 trillion in student loans and the average college senior graduates with $37,691 in debt. Having this much debt at the beginning of adulthood has kept a lot of young people from getting married. Also, a study done by Cornell University found that most American women want to get married but many are unable to find “marriageable” men, which can be considered men with stable jobs and a good income. This increasing financial instability has made marriage less attractive or just out of reach for many young people, causing fewer people to get married.

Lastly, fewer people are getting married because of the increasing benefits of staying single. The Pew Research Center found that half of American adults believe society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children. Fewer and fewer people want to get married in order to pursue their own personal goals, whether it be in their career or hobbies. Also single people are actually more social. Sociologists, Natalia Sarkisian, of Boston College, and Naomi Gerstel, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, found that marriage actually weakens other social ties. On average, single people provide more care for their siblings and aging parents, have more friends, and are more likely to offer help to neighbors and ask for it in return.

This huge drop in marriage rates has many causes, some of which are a change in gender roles and more gender equality, increasing financial instability, and the increasing benefits of staying single. Is this something we, as a society, should be worried about? Marriage has a lot of benefits, including better outcomes for children, less crime, an increase in longevity and generally happier lives. However, the way marriage is today is also very challenging and does not work for everyone. Perhaps in the future there will be other forms of partnerships that better fit the needs of our society without the negative side effects of marriage. There have already been suggestions of alternative forms of marriage such as “beta-marriages” where a couple is married only for a short period of time before making a commitment, almost like a “test run”. Our society is changing fast, so it only makes sense that the relationships we form with other people change as well.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

 
 

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