Not too long ago, a young couple living together would be socially condemned in suburban America as “living in sin.” People often married young and started having kids without a second thought. Today, 5.5 million unmarried couples live together in the United States. Many young people think of marrying someone before living together. They also believe that being intimate to be an archaic — and sometimes dangerous — notion.
Waiting Longer To Get Married
Even when young people do get married, they’re waiting longer to do so. In the 1950s, the median age for women to get married was just 20 years old (for men it was 23). As of 2004, those numbers rose to 26 and 27, respectively.
Researchers are pointing out that divorce rates have dropped significantly since millennials came of marrying age. From 2008 to 2016, the overall national divorce rate dropped by 18%. You may say “well that’s because fewer young people are getting married in the first place!” And you’d be partially right. But researchers also adjusted the numbers to account for the drop in marriages taking place and demographic changes. Yet, they still concluded that an 8% drop in divorces has happened in the United States.
Marriage and Divorce
In this particular study, the reasons cited for a drop in having children are because marriage and divorce are familiar to many millennials. More of them are going to college and starting careers. They feel that path is expected of them by family and society. Being busy with building a career and bogged down by college debt means less time for worrying about marriage. It also means more caution about making the right choice in partner. Divorces increased over the past 200 or so years because societal stigma against divorce lessened. Has marriage decreased because stigma against being unmarried has lessened?
Of course, the fact that young people are currently laboring under a combined $1 trillion in student loans probably doesn’t help, either.
It’s not just U.S. millennials who feel this way. Young people worldwide are becoming increasingly connected by the internet and other forms of media, forming progressive views in the process. The result? Young adults worldwide are choosing to delay marriage and delay having children, or skip these life events altogether.
Japan, for example, has the third lowest birth rate in the world at only 7.7 per 1,000 people. Their population is actually in a slow decline because of this birth rate issue, causing a lot of controversy amongst the Japanese.
Poverty, Birth Control and Family Planning
Although you’d imagine that poverty would be a factor in low birth rate (kids are expensive), the opposite is true. When populations overcome poverty, birth rates decrease. There are several reasons for this. For one, mortality rates decrease with decreased poverty. When more of your children will live to adulthood, you can afford to have fewer. Second, birth control and family planning education are more readily available in a growing or wealthy country. Third, cultural values can change with a movement of wealth and technology. People tend to take on some Westernized ideas (like smaller families) when supplied with Western-dominated media. Fun fact: more children around the world aged two to five know how to use a smartphone app (19%) more than tie their shoes (9%).
The world is slowly but surely working its way out of the deepest kinds of poverties. Some experts are estimating that high birth rates in Africa, the Middle East, India, and island nations worldwide could decrease in the next couple of decades as birth control and other resources are more easily accessible. Is this a good thing? Some would argue no, the preservation of culture is at risk. Others would say yes, overpopulation is going to become an urgent issue for our planet soon. What do you think?