American families aren't as prominent as they used to be, according to Michael Wear of The Atlantic, who says the amount of families, as well as the importance of them in the American mindset, has dropped significantly in recent years.
This is because the average American household is poorer than they were 10 years ago and policymakers have been slow to introduce or support legislation necessary to help build strong partnerships until recently, The Atlantic reported.
However, citizens still believe in a stable married and family life. They’re just waiting longer to start one. According to the Pew Research Center, the average age for marriage in the U.S. is 26.5 years for brides and 28.7 for grooms — a record high for the country. And American marriage rates, even though they are ocurring later in people's lives, are also holding steady, according to Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight.
But why, specifically, are Americans waiting to get hitched?
Fear of bad finances
According to Forbes’ Trevor Butterworth, the decline of marriage is parallel to the decline of America’s economy. When America’s economy crashed in 2008 because of the housing bubble, Americans started acting more cautious about whom they dated and married because of their desire for financial stability, Butterworth wrote.
But the economic downturn still impacts people six years later. Millennials and young people alike are moving in with their parents and living at home, while they struggle to find work or make ends meet, according to Deseret News National. And a quarter of young people say they will never get married because they either haven't found the right person, or aren't financially secure enough.
News about the economy hasn't been all bad, however. It has actually helped women by giving them more financial independence and success in the workplace than ever before. And young women have increasingly become the breadwinner in families since 1960, making them more cautious about who they marry. New research from Pew — which shows that women, even though they can now pay the bills to support a family, still want to marry a partner who can hold a steady job — supports this trend.
Men, on the other hand, are not experiencing the same good fortune. According to Pew, there are more single adult females with jobs than there are males. And men, who were hit hardest by the recession, lost more than 3 million more jobs than women did in recent years, according to The Economic Policy Institute, making it harder for men who are unemployed to find a female partner to settle down with.
This may be because laid off workers and the unemployed aren't in a good position financially to raise a kid, which costs about $250,000 from birth to 18 years old. And being poor, according to Olga Khazan of The Atlantic, means you’re less likely to have kids and families overall.
But worry not — the American family isn't dead
Despite these concerns, young people still see marriage as the next frontier, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, 68 percent of all Americans still believe marriage is important for society, Pew reported.
Marriage is so important to young people that they’re even willing to try new ways to find stability, such as a two-year beta, or trial, marriage — even though it may not be the best route. In a beta marriage, two people agree to test a potential partnership for two years before they are free to dissolve the relationship with no strings attached.
Pope Francis, too, sees the benefits of marriage. According to ABC News, the pope recently married 20 couples at the Vatican, despite their different backgrounds, and the Roman Catholic Church's Synod of Bishops recently held a conference to investigate new ways to support families.
President Barack Obama is also supporting new legislation that helps students pay off their loans quicker, The Atlantic's Michael Wear reported, which will help students achieve the stability needed to start a family sooner.
"It can be easy to miss the value of family to our nation because its contributions are so ingrained into our lives," Wear wrote. "From cradle to grave, the social and personal benefits of a healthy family, and the costs of its absence, are evident."
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