America take note. Marriage, the institution that was designed by God to provide protection and stability for children as they grew and matured into adults, continues to become more rare with every passing year.
The newest number: 51% of Americans are married.
The more disturbing fact is that marriage is no longer viewed as necessary to raise children. Why get married any more if you're living together and laws allow you to claim the same financial advantages as if you were married.
Marriage rates in the US have hit an all-time low, as economic forces and social shifts have pushed couples to delay or avoid matrimony, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center.
Just 51 per cent of people over age 18 are married today, compared to 57 per cent in 2000 and 72 per cent in 1960, with trends pointing toward wedded couples becoming a social minority within a few years.
“Public attitudes about the institution of marriage are mixed,” the report said. “Nearly four-in-10 Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete,” yet most people who have never married say they would like to some day.
A sharp drop in marriages occurred between 2009 and 2010 when the US economy was in recession, with new nuptials declining 5 per cent. Young people, in particular, drove the rates down, as marriage rates fell 13 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds.
“This trend reflects the changing labour market that young adults face,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. They “think that you shouldn’t get married until you’re positive that you can make a go of it financially.”
Outsourcing and automation of jobs in the manufacturing sector over the last several decades have contributed to the decline of marriages among those with no university education, Mr Cherlin said, with the recent recession and spike in unemployment making the working class even less likely to marry.
Declining job security and the erosion of health and pension plans – benefits that were previously the mark of a promising groom – have also made marriage less appealing.
University-educated people are still getting married, but not until much later, after they have finished school and invested in building their careers. High divorce rates among baby boomers also scared many of their children into skipping or postponing marriage, the Pew researchers said. The age of first marriage rose higher than ever in the last year to an average 26.5 years for women and 28.7 for men.
Instead, couples are living together and having children without getting married. Cohabitation, living alone and single parenthood have all grown more prevalent, the report said.
The trends are consistent in other countries as well.
“The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing ‘market share’ for the past half century,” the researchers said. “The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies.”
Clair Brown, an economics and public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that these sociological trends are often beneficial for the economy. People who stay in school longer and wait to have children get better jobs and have more mature relationships, she said.
Many European countries have recognised that and granted the rights of the married to cohabiting couples, she said, adding that the US would benefit if it followed their lead.
“Let’s take Sweden. Everyone cohabitates in Sweden and the state doesn’t treat you any differently,” she said. “When will the US government catch up with the social norms?”