Over the next few decades, the millennial generation will take on increasingly greater influence in the work place, politics and sociology. By 2020, 50 percent of U.S. workers will be millennials and with the steadily increasing average age of first-married couples, their marriage patterns have become a cause for concern among those of Generation X and earlier.
In numerous articles, writers for the Boston Globe, Forbes, and other publications have wondered whether millennials have given up on marriage entirely. Indeed, the difference in marriage rates of 18 to 32 year-olds between the boomer generation and those of the millennials, marriage rates have declined from 48 percent to 26 percent.
It’s too soon to tell whether millennials are merely postponing marriage or will end up giving up on the institution entirely. Studies predicting a record number of unmarried individuals by age 40 such as that of the Urban Institute are limited by their nature as forecasts. And as forecasts, they use past marriage rates of various generations at various ages, ignoring the possibility that marriage rates may increase after millennials get settled in their careers and complete their education.
So as Neil Howe of Forbes put it, “while the dynamics surrounding the institution have changed, its aspirational value largely hasn’t.”
In another study by the Brookings Institution, even when government aid to low-income households is accounted for, per capita income among the top 1 percent has tripled while increasing only 50 percent for the bottom quintile since 1979.
Perhaps millennials view financial and social stability as a prerequisite to marriage as opposed to seeing marriage as part of a checklist, so we may see a decline in divorce rates in the future. The Washington Post has already reported a relative lack of divorce among the currently married millennials.
Now the millennial trend that should be most concerning to baby boomers is the divide on marriage rates is increasing along demographic lines: Those less well-off and minorities are tending to get married less and less frequently than Caucasians and those with a bachelor’s degree or greater. Those less educated are increasingly becoming driven toward their careers rather than marriage because of the competition in a workplace where more and more individuals have strong academic backgrounds.
The effects of income inequality are going far beyond economics; they’re seeping into our sociology. With the rise in tuition costs, housing prices, competition in the workplace, and decline in full-time jobs with health insurance, it has taken more time for those less well-off among millennials to achieve the same stability previous generations have reached.
Anhvinh Doanvo is a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences.