Poverty in America is the main reason for declining marriage rates of millennial generation. They came to such a conclusion in the study “Millennial Marriage: How Much Does Economic Security Matter to Marriage Rates for Young Adults“? And I am doing a review of it.
Young adults today are marrying at lower rates than previous generations, and self-reports suggest that a lack of economic security plays a role in the decline. However, it is unclear which aspects of economic security truly matter with regard to young adult marriage rates: is it a matter of employment, wages, poverty, or housing? Or, do all these factors matter? Moreover, how does the measurement of each concept matter to understanding how an economic prerequisite to marriage may operate among young adults? Finally, are the economic characteristics of men more relevant to marriage rates than those of women, as research about previous generations suggests?
Using five-year estimates (2012–2016) from the American Community Survey at the county level, this study finds that labor force characteristics, wages, poverty, and housing (e.g., housing costs and living arrangements) are all associated with marriage rates among young adults, but there are factors within each economic category that tend to be more closely associated with marriage rates than others. Moreover, there was little evidence that men’s economic characteristics are more often significantly associated than those of women, as estimates suggest that the economic characteristics of both men and women matter to marriage among young adults today.
Young adults today, sometimes referred to as “millennials,” 2 are marrying at lower rates than previous generations at similar life stages. The downward trend is accompanied by rises in cohabitation rates and non-marital births among young adults, both of which are significantly higher than the previous generation. What explains the lower marriage rates among young adults? Economic insecurity and a lack of financial resources seem to be a common answer given by the young people themselves. Although most people claim to marry for love and not economic reasons, research nonetheless shows that economic security is considered a “prerequisite” for marriage in modern times. Low earnings, poverty, debt, housing costs, and unemployment are all negatively associated with entry into marriage and marital living arrangements.
Why everyone is single nowadays?
There are multiple reasons for this:
- First, the process of marrying is itself expensive, as engagement rings and increasingly lavish weddings introduce barriers to those lacking economic resources.
- Second, cultural expectations surrounding marriage also entail other important, but expensive, life events, such as purchasing a home and raising children.
- Third, financial strains and disagreements are strong predictors of both relationship quality and divorce insurance policy.
If economic resources appear to be important for entry into marriage, then it is understandable why many young adults today choose not to marry; they are facing unprecedented economic burdens despite being on average more educated than previous generations. In addition to historically high levels of student loan debt, many millennials entered the job market during and after the Great Recession (2007-2009), a time period of great economic strain.
Indeed, millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have more debt, poverty, and unemployment, as well as lower personal wealth and income, than the two preceding generations at similar life stages. The economic insecurity among young adults is also reflected in living arrangements and housing markets, as fewer young adults are buying houses than previous generations and an unprecedented proportion are still living with parents.
What aspects of economic security truly matter to young adults today? Is it a matter of employment, wages, poverty, or housing? Or, do all these factors matter? Moreover, how does the measurement of each concept matter to understanding how an economic prerequisite to marriage may operate among young adults? Finally, are the economic characteristics of men more relevant to marriage rates than those of women, as research about previous generations suggests? In general, a more comprehensive study is needed to examine how much economic security matters to young adult marriage today and to assess the future of marriage in the United States if economic barriers persist. Many millennials are likely to accept feminism and gender egalitarianism, making it more likely that traditional divisions of labor are challenged. Moreover, given the economic struggles of young adult men post-recession, and the rise in women entering the labor force compared to 40 years ago, it is possible that the socioeconomic characteristics of both men and women matter, with women potentially playing a more important role than ever in establishing the economic security necessary for marriage.
Male partner’s earnings predicted the transition to marriage among cohabiters, but not female partner’s earnings. Using 1980-1992 High School and Beyond data, found that the earnings of men mattered more to marriage than those of women. However, some studies have found positive effects of wages/earnings among both men and women. Similar to studies on employment, these studies do not focus on the most recent young adult generation, so the specific financial hardship of young adults today may make wages of both men and women salient to marriage.
Poverty. Some living in destitute.
According to Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs, one must fulfill physiological needs, like food, water and shelter, before fulfilling high-order needs like safety and love/belonging. In this sense, being in poverty may obstruct the ability to focus on marital decisions given how one is struggling to survive. Moreover, some people are in such severe poverty that their income would need to double or triple simply in order to exceed the poverty threshold. This severe form of poverty is measured by the U.S. Census Bureau as income-poverty thresholds ratios that are less than 50 percent.
Another important housing condition relevant to marriage is homeownership. Historically, being able to establish an independent household was an important prerequisite to marriage, and homeownership certainly reflects one’s ability to maintain an independent household. It signifies financial stability in that the couple was able to afford a down payment and get approved for a mortgage.
The median annual wages for all working adults is $20,327 per year, while full-time workers make approximately $30,580 per year. Male workers make a median salary of $22,063 while female workers only make $17,291 per year. The poverty rates for young adults are 15.9 percent for young adult men and 21.8 percent for young adult women. Furthermore, 7.8 percent of young adult men and 11.5 percent of young adult women live in severe poverty.
For men’s marriage rates, the average is 39.0 new marriages per 1,000 young adult men,
The average marriage rate for women is 43.9 new marriages per 1,000 young adult women
The relationship between poverty and marriage rates for men’s marriage were not significant. However, the poverty indicators of women were particularly important when examining women’s marriages rates. Specifically, the percentage of women in poverty and severe poverty were negatively associated with women’s marriage rates, while the poverty indicators of men did not produce significant associations. Poverty conditions of women play an important role when examining the likelihood of women entering into marriage.
To sum up the whole study:
- economic security correlates with marriage rates among young adults today.
- “economic security” is a prerequisite for marriage among millennials today.
- historically low marriage rates of young adults today and the particularly associated with economic conditions they have faced.
- Before economic stability of a man was important for marriage. Today the socioeconomic characteristics of both men and women are important to young adult marriage rates.
- Looking forward, it is possible that marriage rates among young adults in the future may increase somewhat, as more recent high school and college graduates experience slightly more job opportunities and wages close to pre recession levels. (Not going to happen)
- Conclusion: understanding the state of marriage in the United States among young adults is partially dependent upon understanding the economic security and stability they experience, and the economic prerequisite for marriage remains both multidimensional and an important factor for the family choices of young adults. And the reason for that is the same – employment, wages, housing conditions. One word Poverty!
It is very difficult to be millennial. I am myself single poor female Russian immigrant living in the foreign land