Marriage today is associated with different things. This includes, love, union, family, and companionship. It is also a topic up for social debate. While some consider the debate over same sex marriage, others deliberate the rise of divorce and children born to single mothers. Many researchers and scholars on this topic agree. However, what are the reasons behind these trends? While some state this is due to the decline in morality and the institution of marriage, others suggest this is simply a matter of economic and educational factors. Regardless of these differences, marriage is an institution that is alive and thriving despite the marginalization and setbacks observed today.
There has been recent interest in the state of marriage in America. We live in a high tech era of online dating, contraceptives, and sexuality. Consequently, many couples participate in premarital sex and cohabitation. These social trends could be observed in a report conducted by the National Marriage Project. The report clarifies what most have known and suspected. There is an increase of single mothers, divorce, and only half of the adult population is married. This number has significantly changed over the decades. In 1960, 3 out of 4 adults were married (Thompson 2012). In the 2010 report entitled, When Marriage Disappears: the New Middle America, researchers indicate that marriage is on a serious decline among specific groups. They define this group as “Middle Americans”. Among this population, marriage suffers greatly. Middle Americans are less likely to be married; if they are married this group is more likely to be unhappily married (Wilcox 2010).
Their research study continues to demonstrate the decline of marriage. The study goes on to state that 30% of Americans will never marry (Wilcox 2010). In addition, 54% of today’s children are born to single mothers (Wilcox 2010). An article written by Time Magazine concurs with this research. “Fewer adults are married, more are living alone, and more kids are born to unmarried women”, (Stengel, 2010). It is an issue that many have experienced personally, either within their own family or with someone they know. It is even characterized on television and social media. Reality pop star Kim Kardasian is pregnant by rapper Kanye West, they are not married and do not live together. TV shows such as Reba and Gilmore Girls also demonstrate the rise of divorce and single-mothers. It also exhibits its social acceptance into American mainstream society. Although there is an increase in unwed child bearing and divorce, it does not suggest that marriage is on the decline.
In the High Tech era of modern America, the dynamics of marriage has changed. As a result, women marry at an older age and for different reasons than women of past generations. An article produced by The Atlantic identifies three significant factors for this social trend. This includes: education, technology, and birth control. Simple technological innovations such as the washing machine and microwave have helped revolutionize the modern man. This makes him less reliable on female counterparts to manage basic household duties. In addition, education is also a major factor. Today, women attend college and work high paying full time jobs. Financially independent, women are less dependent on men for economic support. The end result of gender equality and technology is observed today. The decrease of married adults is specifically seen in those 18 to 29 years old. In the 1960s, 60% of adults under the age of 30 were married. Today, only 20% of adults 29 and younger are married, (Thompson, 2012). This suggests that women are more likely to abstain from marriage to purse an education or career.
Most importantly, the current issues concerning marriage are specific only to Middle Americans. Middle Americans are defined as, “those with a high school but not a four year college degree”, (Wilcox 2010). This includes people who are middle class or low socio-economic status. Other researchers agree, “among less educated women and poorer women… marriage rates declined by 25%” (Thompson, 2012). Women that do not have a college degree suffer from higher rates of divorce and non-marital child bearing. Furthermore they are less likely to have opportunities for marital success. In this perspective, marriage trends are strongly related to one’s education or economic status. As statistics indicate, individuals who are economically stable and knowledgeable are more likely to be married and less likely to have a child out of wedlock. Marriage is not the decline, rather, the trends and social dynamics of marriage has changed.
51% of all Americans are married and an additional 20% are widowed or divorced. The American adult population participating in the institution of marriage today it is only 71%. The remaining 30% can account for many things. This includes people between the ages of 18 to 29 who are not married. Instead of entering a marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy, economic needs (women), and domestic needs (men), people are given the opportunity to grow and mature. This is done by finishing school, entering a promising career, or simply becoming more wise and experienced. In one area of marriage, statistics remain unchanged over the last century. “Americans aged 60 and higher are as likely to be married as any other generation before them at that age”, (Thompson, 2012). The statement provides evidence to this conclusion. The institution of marriage has not changed. The only differences are the trends. Given the opportunities provided today, many adults are choosing to hold off on marriage. Provided with financial security and wisdom that comes with maturity, marriage in the High Tech era can be rewarding and successful.
Stengel, R. “All in the Family.” Time Magazine. 18 Nov 2010: n. page. Web. 10 Apr. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2032128,00.html>.
Thompson, D. “The Death (and Life) of Marriage in America.” Atlantic. 7 Feb 2012: n.page. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/the death-and-life-of-marriage-in-america/252640/>.
Wilcox, D. United States. Marriage in America. When Marriage Disappears: the New Middle America. Charlottesville, VA: The National Marriage Project, 2010. Web. <http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/about/sfi/intro_page/resources/marriage_dissapears.pdf>.