NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Millennials aren’t getting married as early or often as their parents did. That much everyone knows, and it’s been explained to us over and over again by Baby Boomers who have seemed to have adopted a full-time hobby of fretting over the moral failures of our Generation Y.
Still, whether or not a wave of single 30-somethings will bring about the end of civilization as we know it, apparently the trend is not entirely Gen Y's fault. A new study out by the Pew Research Center reveals that Millennial marriage has a lot less to do with a freewheeling attitude toward sex and a lot more to do with economics. Specifically, jobs.
According to the report "Record Share of Americans Have Never Been Married" by Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, while Millennials remain single in record numbers compared to previous generations, about half of all unmarried adults still say they would like to get married someday. Only 13% say they’re actively not interested at all.
Unfortunately for young people, one of the biggest credentials for a potential mate has fallen through the floor. Approximately 78% of unmarried women say that it’s “very important” for their spouse to have a steady job, which is unfortunate because that’s exactly what young men increasingly can’t offer these days.
Among men 25 to 34, both employment and wages have steadily declined over the last several decades. These days only about 82% of Millennial men can find a job of any kind, no less a good one. There are simply fewer men with good jobs to choose from, because there are fewer good jobs out there, and according to the research that makes romance a lot harder to find.
“Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34,” Wang and Parker write, “the number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012, despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers. In other words, if all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail, simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”
Men tended not to rate employment as highly as women did in Wang and Parker’s study, with only 46% calling it “very important” to them. The biggest factor for the guys was shared goals regarding children. 62% called it very important (although here too the women proved somewhat more selective, with 70% of women considering it very important).
In fact, of those of us who remain unmarried, one in three cite financial security as reasons for holding off. Many of the rest of us are stuck in school longer and longer just to try and get an edge, which again only delays life steps like marriage, family and homeownership.
This report adds to a quietly growing chorus trying to make clear what everyone under 35 already knows: Millennial life choices aren’t different because we’re somehow flawed but because we have fewer options. Baby Boomers enjoyed an era of unprecedented prosperity, and used it to launch careers, buy homes and start families. Those days are over for now, largely due to the choices made by those same Baby Boomers. Today’s young people must struggle to find jobs and pay off debt before even thinking about starting a family.
Millennials don’t buy houses. They delay marriage -- not because they're wastrels, but because they have less money, more debt and fewer jobs than any generation since the Great Depression.
--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.