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Study: Young couples avoid marriage

Not tying the knot is becoming the new norm.

By Kristin Wong Mar 27, 2013 3:43PM

In your 20s with no marriage plans on the horizon? You're not alone. 

Researchers from California State University recently released a report, "Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America." The report details studies on unmarried 20-somethings and explores the effects of waiting to tie the knot. 

Photo: Younger couple looking at wedding dresses / Manchan/Getty ImagesMore on MSN Living: 10 rocky moments every relationship faces

"The age at which men and women marry is now at historic heights—27 for women, and 29 for men—and is still climbing," the report states. 

These stats are in line with a recent study from the Pew Research Center, which found that marriage rates are at an all-time low. Researchers from that study found that a fear of divorce causes many young couples to avoid wedlock:

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"The most common refrain among our respondents was their strong desire to ensure that when they wed, they 'did it right' and only married once."

But researchers in the Cal State study pointed to two more reasons: the economy and culture. 

"Culturally, young adults have increasingly come to see marriage as a 'capstone' rather than a 'cornerstone'—that is, something they do after they have all their other ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood." 

Having your ducks in a row does pay off. Women who postpone marriage until their 30s enjoy an "annual income premium" of $18,152. Another benefit to delaying wedlock? It does decrease the chance of divorce, as couples who marry young are more likely to split than those who marry later in life. 

But there's a problem: parenthood. 

"The age at which women have children is also increasing, but not nearly as quickly as the delay in marriage," the report explains. "By age 25, 44 percent of women have had a baby, while only 38 percent have married; by the time they turn 30, about two-thirds of American women have had a baby, typically out of wedlock." 

In short, couples are putting off marriage, but they're not putting off becoming parents. The report refers to this as a "crossover."  Nearly half (48 percent) of first births are to unmarried women, and most of them are in their 20s. 

The concern with the crossover is that it's happening among the "least economically privileged." Basically, it's happening mostly among women who don't have a college education. College-educated women typically become mothers more than two years after they decide to marry. Thus, the problem: 

"The crossover is cause for concern primarily because children born outside of marriage—including to cohabiting couples—are much more likely to experience family instability, school failure, and emotional problems. In fact, children born to cohabiting couples are three times more likely to see their parents break up, compared to children born to married parents." 

Keep in mind, the study was sponsored by the National Marriage Project, but it still offers an unbiased bottom line: 

"For the college-educated third of our population, [postponing marriage] has been a success. For the rest, including large swaths of Middle America, not so much."

More from The Heart Beat:

China's 'fake-marriage market' a growing trend
New wedding trend: The anti-invite

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Photo: Younger couple looking at wedding dresses / Manchan/Getty Images

19Comments
Mar 29, 2013 2:36AM
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I guess I'm too stupid to understand the nature of the comment section for an article/study like this one. The study is generally correct(albeit constrained) in its assessment of the cause of the lack of marriages in early adulthood and doesn't really allow for much debate on the subject.
As far as children out of wedlock, the problem effect observed, I'm not really sure it's one of the stated goals of the National Marriage Project... the sponsor of the study... to do anything about that before marriage exists.
The stated goals pertain to strengthening marriages, making them more stable, and the studies that will help to that end. It seems that the study suggests that those in marriages are older and wiser and have their **** together... resulting in stronger, more stable relationships. That should be valuable, welcomed data to help in their goals. In the next breath, they cite the side effect of such good news suggesting that good news is not longer valuable as a result.

IDK, it's just struck me a little odd.

Mar 28, 2013 11:49PM
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I think it is because you cant trust anyone, if you have money, women want to get married and then they want to get divorced and brag about how they took him for everything he had. young men see this and think that is not going to be me. but I will tell you, you better beware.
Mar 28, 2013 11:28PM
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Its also a possibility that the "crossover" birthrate to the "least economically privileged' is due in part to the economic benefits that

States like CA give to young unmarried mothers in AFDC, and numerous other welfare programs.

Mar 28, 2013 11:26PM
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You cannot study love - enough said. A marriage will either work or it won't. Try waiting until you are certain this person is emotionally worthy, not just good in bed. 
Mar 28, 2013 11:12PM
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From a marketing perspective, we are marrying later or not at all.  We also have the largest single population that we have ever had.

 

It is because of this that many products and services never make it beyond the blueprint stage.

Mar 28, 2013 10:45PM
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I love the way they do studies to figure out that young people are too broke and scared to get married.  The notion of getting married and starting a family in one's 20's, in today's world of crummy job prospects and high housing costs doesn't really compute.  It's not like you come out of high school (or even college) with the optimism it takes to commit to such things, like previous generations might have.  Also, if you've witnessed half of the married people you've ever known ending up divorced, it's only natural you'd be a little bit apprehensive about marriage.

 

As for the trend toward having babies before marriage ... I think it's another thing that shows how unimportant marriage has become as a priority.  Some women just want babies, I suppose.  Waiting for a decent guy to come along and commit to her might mean she never has those babies.  This isn't a scenario that's in the cards for a lot of women and they are simply aware of it.  It may be selfish to commit those children to a less than great life, but that's another discussion.

Mar 28, 2013 10:41PM
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 Men and men, and women and women are marrrying sooner. Thanks to the general degradation of morality it's ironic to think the gay community may be the saviour of the institution of marriage.
Mar 28, 2013 10:34PM
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How is this anything but a good thing? The reason there are so many divorces is because so many people think you need to marry the first hot thing you date for two years when you're 21. It takes time and a lot of mistakes to figure out who you really want to be with long term. Not to mention the fact that it becomes much harder to relocate or switch jobs once you're married.
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