The Meddlesome Mysteries of Millennials and Marriage

MarriageMarketers love to study generations to identify their unique characteristics, habits, age-specific trends, and the things that motivate them to take particular actions.

What they’ve discovered regarding marriage and family trends among millennials is interesting to the group of San Diego family lawyers here at Griffith, Young & Lass.

First, some facts about millennials:

  • They were born between 1980 and 1996
  • The last of them turned 18 in 2014
  • There are approximately 73 million in the United States
  • The millennial generation outnumbers baby boomers

The most significant difference between millennials and the previous two generations is marital status, according to Gallup. A whopping 59 percent of millennials who participated in a Gallup tracking survey reported that they were single and had never married. By comparison, 16 percent of generation Xers and 10 percent of baby boomers reported being single/never married at the same age.

Pew Research data shows the median age for is at an all-time high, with men marrying at around 29 and women at 27, according to Cosmopolitan.

Reasons millennials cite for waiting to walk down the aisle include:

  • Wanting to find the right person
  • Waiting until they feel ready or old enough
  • A desire to reach financial stability first
  • Establishing lives of their own lives before marriage

That doesn’t mean millennials aren’t pairing up. Far more of them are in domestic partnerships or living with partners than any other generation: 9 percent, compared to 6 percent of those in generation X and 3 percent of baby boomers.

The decrease in marriage rates among Americans who are 18-29 years old is a trend Gallup has tracked for several years. Although more millennials are living together, the overall percentage of adults living together hasn’t changed, according to Gallup.

That means this isn’t a case of young adults simply swapping marriage for shacking up, but that they are choosing to avoid making more serious commitments that go along with cohabitation, Gallup states.

Another interesting fact Gallup identified is that 14 percent of adults between ages 24 and 34 live with a parent.

There is some evidence that millennials’ marriage delays could pay off in terms of lower divorce rates – provided they don’t wait too long. People who marry at age 25 are more than 50 percent less likely to get a divorce than those who marry at 20, according to a 2015 study conducted by University of Utah Professor Nicholas Wolfinger. The chances of avoiding divorce continue to improve until age 32. From there, divorce odds increase.

Delaying saying “I do” doesn’t mean millennials are putting off starting families. One study revealed that 57 percent of 26- to 31-year-old parents had children out of wedlock. Another study published in July uncovered some of the reasoning behind it: education and income inequality, according to The Atlantic. The less higher education someone had achieved, and the larger the income gap between men and women, the more likely parents were to be unmarried when they had children.

“The big growth in childbearing outside of marriage we’ve seen over the past few decades is not among the poor and it’s certainly not among the college educated,” Johns Hopkins university sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin told TIME. “It’s among people in the middle, the high school educated 20-somethings. Those are the ones who have changed their behavior the most.”

For millennials who are delaying marriage until they are sure they have found The One, here are some tips for how to stay married.

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