Uh-oh, someone alert the Traditional Values Coalition, because marriage is on the decline. The percentage of married individuals in the U.S. is at a record low, with only 51% of adults 18 and over currently being hitched, according to a Pew Research Center study that came out today. This percentage is not only a drastic decline from the 72% of married adults in 1960, but it has also dropped a significant 5% between 2009 and 2010.
However, 61% of unmarried people still want to get married someday, and even 47% of those who believe "marriage is obsolete" still want to get married. So if all these people want to tie the knot, why is marriage on the decline? Well, it comes down to age.
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Whereas the past saw people getting married off right out of high school or college, these days people are waiting. Not necessarily on purpose, but our careers and lives are taking precedence over the age-old tradition. In 1960, 45% of adults ages 18-24 were hitched, compared to the very slight 9% of today's adults (college kids, really) in that same age range. But among those 36 to 45, marriage is still going strong — likely because they didn't get married during an age of "marriage decline."
One major factor that plays a significant role in whether you're married or not is education. In 2010, 64% of college grads were married, compared with only 47% of those who had a high school education or less. Time's editor-at-large, Belinda Luscombe, notes that it may indeed be becoming a status symbol, much like a designer bag, "The institution is losing its status as a social obligation, but not necessarily its desirability. Indeed, since marriage is now largely practiced among high-status, college-educated individuals, it may even be becoming more prestigious — the relationship equivalent of owning a luxury car."
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With people living longer and the world being as connected as it is, allowing us to experience more of life, marriage seems to be a fading tradition. Besides, lifetime commitment isn't exactly guaranteed if you enter into holy matrimony, with some statistics citing that as many as 50% of men will cheat at one point in their marriage. I don't think this means we're witnessing a downfall of our society, but rather that we're evolving into something that transcends the conventional wisdom of our parents and grandparents. Marriage may be something you think you want, and that’s fine, but at the end of the day, it's just a piece of paper. And forever doesn't need a piece of paper, because it appears to be on its way out.
Are you as cynical about marriage as I am? Do you think it's on its way out?