SAN DIEGO, August 16, 2015 – Fellow romantics, we have good news for you. Millennials are still the marrying kind.
It might be difficult to reach this conclusion reading various polls. The Pew Research Center reports that marriage rates for the millennial generation are the lowest in 60 years. Twenty-six percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 are married. When they were the same age, 36 percent of Generation X adults were married (born between 1965 and 1980); 48 percent of Baby Boomers were married (born between 1950 and 1964); and 65 percent of the Silent or Greatest Generation were married.
In the Pew study, as well as a recent study published in The Atlantic, most Millennials still believe marriage is meaningful and relevant to them. Approximately two-thirds agreed marriage leads to a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life. Older Americans are slightly more positive, with 75 percent responding favorably. The strong activism in favor of marriage equality among younger Americans would also seem to indicate their belief in the value of marriage, even if not for themselves necessarily.
Because they are still relatively young, we will have to wait a few more years to see if the marriage rate for Millennials eventually catches up with their elders. But even if they don’t, there is no reason for panic. Quite the opposite. It seems clear Millennials are smarter than the rest of us in delaying marriage.
Sixty-five percent of younger Americans think the perfect time to get married is between ages 25 and 30. Sixty-three percent of older Americans agree, virtually the same number. But here’s an amusing finding: 60 percent of older Americans say they got married before age 25, earlier than the age they now say is ideal.
The rate of divorce rises when one or more of several factors are present: when people get married at younger ages; when they have a high school education or less; and when their household income is lower.
Millennials are increasingly pursuing higher education. They are working hard to build careers and establish their own households. According to a report by the National Marriage Project, married couples with an income above $50,000 have a 30 percent lower chance of divorcing than those with an income below $25,000, while having a college degree reduces the chances of divorce by 25 percent.
But millennials much now shoulder increasing amounts of college debt, and they have struggled to gain a foothold in the job market thanks to the recent recession. Eighty-five percent of millennials said it’s important to have your life financially together before having kids; only two-thirds of older Americans felt that way.
In the most recent Pew Research Center study on Millennials (who must be feeling like lab rats at this point), according to U.S. Census data they are less likely to be living independently of their families than they were a decade ago when the Great Recession started.
Bear in mind what Millennial kids witnessed among their parents. Their parents are the Baby Boomers, who experienced a spike in the divorce rate. Nearly 90 percent of the Baby Boomers were married by the time they reached age 46; 45 percent had experienced at least one divorce. The rate goes down the more education people have. Baby Boomers with a college degree are much less likely to get divorced.
Put all these numbers together, along with my own experience as a family law attorney with many divorce cases under my belt, and this is what I see. Millennials have learned their lessons well. They understand that it’s important to put critical cornerstones in place first to ensure their marriages have the greatest chance of success. They want to finish their college educations, launch their careers, and securing their financial footing. Only then do they consider marriage, and they aren’t racing into any hasty decisions.
The marriage rate may be at an all time low, but it is for all the right reasons. Millennials still believe in marriage; they just don’t believe it is right for them yet. Divorce rates are also at an all-time low as a result. Instead, Millennials are getting their act together, pursuing college degrees in record numbers and holding off marriage for their diplomas, careers and a solid future. We will find out whether it includes marriage in another decade. I believe it will.