Marriage: Who needs it? (Millions of Americans don't)
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Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week, Dr. Baker is discussing marriage; do you think it's becoming obsolete?
Are you married? If so, you and your spouse are members of what may soon be the newest minority: married Americans. Only 51 percent of American adults are married, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center.
Almost three in ten (28 percent) have never married. In just a few years, the percentage of married American adults may be less than 50 percent.
The percentage of married Americans has been declining for decades. In 1960, for example, 72 percent of American adults were married. Only 15 percent had never married.
Americans of all ages are less likely to marry now than before, but the downward trend is steep among young Americans — 18 to 29 years of age. In 1960, 59 percent were married. Now, it's only 20 percent.
There’s been an especially sharp drop in the number of married Americans in the last few years. From 2009 to 2010 alone, there was a 5 percent decline in new marriages.
The poor economy could explain recent declines, but the long downward trend has taken place in good economic times and bad. Economics may exert influence, but it isn’t the whole story.
The marriage decline isn't an "American problem." That is, there isn’t something peculiar about American culture or values that turns Americans away from marriage. Rather, marriage is becoming less and less prevalent in just about all economically advanced societies.
Marriage is one of the world’s oldest institutions. But it may be on the way to becoming an outdated and anachronistic institution.
Are you alarmed by the increasing unpopularity of marriage?
Have you delayed or avoided marriage?
Do we really need marriage anymore?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.