Catholic wedding ceremony in Milwaukee, WI in 2010. Photo credit: Nancy Heise (Public Domain)

Catholic wedding ceremony in Milwaukee, WI in 2010. Photo credit: Nancy Heise (Public Domain)
Catholic wedding ceremony in Milwaukee, WI in 2010.
Photo credit: Nancy Heise (Public Domain) reports that the number of adults who have never been married has jumped sharply since 1960.  In 1960 only one in ten adults over the age of 25 had not been married.  In 2012 one in five adults over the age of 25 have not been married.

They point out there is not a formal consensus about the cause, and I am sure there is not a silver bullet cause.

The economy and high unemployment rate among young adults certainly is a factor.  As a culture we have also seen adolescence extended which would impact the prevailing attitudes about marriage and commitment among young adults.

With Millennials experiencing parental divorce more than probably any generation prior would make an impact as well.

There are a number of reasons why young adults will delay marriage.

The redefining of marriage has played a role.  I can’t (and won’t) blame it entirely on that, but I think it’s disingenuous of same-sex marriage advocates to deny it as a factor outright.  Stanley Kurtz made that argument ten years ago looking at Scandinavia.  While I doubt same-sex marriage was entirely to blame for the drop in the marriage rate there (a progressive tax rate, economy were likely factors as well).  It is certainly a trend that shouldn’t be ignored.

As the United States looks more and more like Europe with our domestic policies it stands to reason that we would look more like Europe in other areas as well.

I think it is safe to say that attitudes about marriage have changed and the marriage rate does reflect that. There is plenty of blame to go around.

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1 comment
  1. Can’t seem to find many definitive reports about the impact of same-sex marriages on other marriages. There was one report from Reason magazine ( which also discussed Scandinavia. The author noted a confounding variable being the introduction of registered partnerships as an alternative to marriages. The partnerships were available to all couples and differed from marriages in how the relationships could be dissolved. Apparently, these were popular. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the marriage trend remains largely stable after a noticeable blip when same sex marriage was legalized there. I think a comprehensive study would compare rates across all states (those w/ and w/o same sex marriage bans) and perhaps group people by social-economic factors. I suspect there’s not much ‘signal’ correlated with same sex marriage legalization or studies would’ve noted this by now.

    I thinks it’s very certain that divorce has a major influence on marriage rates. And economic instability is also known to be a major determinant in the delay of marriage. I don’t think same sex marriage has affects anywhere near the magnitude as these other conditions.

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