Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.

Summary: In Will young men break America’s family structure? I asked a question which the comments suggest was too disturbing for many readers. Will most of today’s young men marry, as did previous generations? If not, our society will drastically change. Here are the answers readers gave.

Family holding hands

Will the young men now in high school and college marry in their late 20’s, as men do now? I gave an introduction to this vital issue in “Will young men break America’s family structure?” Here are some additional aspects I did not mention.

Marriage was an asset for our ancestors, as children provided labor whose value exceeded their cost. That changed by the 19th century, resulting in the street children and horrific orphanages described by Dickens. Now children are raised at fantastic cost by middle class families, often paid as child support by absent dads. I doubt many today’s young men, raised with pronatalism scrubbed from their textbooks, will marry to have kids.

The other major benefits of marriage, sex and companionship, are easily available without the risks and cost of marriage. Will this thoroughly unromantic generation of young men follow the traditional patterns in a world so radically changed? Or have the pressures on the institution of marriage grown, so that it snaps (similar to punctuated equilibrium in evolution)?

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music

Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”.

Reader’s responses

My favorite response is from Lisa, whose feminist rant boils down to Men must marry the available women, under the terms women offer. Perhaps they will, but they do not have to do so. In discussions about family, people often assume that men and women have no agency — the sociology term for their ability to make independent choices. They do, and the choices they make produce the unexpected events that define history.

Several comments described the forces changing marriage — most often mentioning economics. The unstated assumption was that these forces would infallibly produce benign outcomes. This is the theory propounded in Candide by Voltaire’s Professor Pangloss, “the greatest philosopher of the Holy Roman Empire”, who said that “all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” Unfortunately history shows otherwise.

Another group denied that such a basic institution as marriage can or would change. It is a common, but odd, opinion.

Tom Tomorrow: marriage

The great experiment

Seldom, perhaps never, in history has such a basic institution as the family undergone so much change, so rapidly. This amazing increase in the rate of change drastically increases the likelihood and costs of failure.

We cannot jump off this roller coaster. The last opportunity ended long ago for forethought and careful experimentation. We can remember that institutions break faster than they heal, watch without ideological blinders for problems, and respond quickly. My guess — emphasis on “guess” — is that we will learn much in the next decade. America’s fate in the 21st century might depend on the result, for the family is the foundation of society.

For More Information

See this brief analysis by Drew Istotle (@drewistotle) that comes to the same conclusion. He is the owner, producer, and screenwriter at Aesop Pictures.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender roles, especially these…

Useful books about marriage

18 thoughts on “Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.

    1. epagbreton

      Quite a dystopian scenario. Likely that a segment of the population has been experiencing this description for two generations now. Additionally the costs of raising a child are of even a greater impact today. Attachment Theory has explored this since the 60’s and neural research explores it further today with some predictive accuracy. Naturally young people will continue to have children and “an individually focused “society is exactly what we have and what the meme desires.
      Confusion abounds. Blowback increases. And the Problem is hardly recognized.

      Breton

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    2. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Breton,

      “Naturally young people will continue to have children”

      Such binary statements tell us almost nothing. Magnitudes matter! How many people will have children? How many children will they have?

      Fertility is collapsing almost everywhere. Almost certainly the male pill, which will come eventually, will start another drop. The collapse of the family in America will also do so.

      The drop in fertility will be, I expect, a good thing as we begin a new industrial revolution. The increased atomization and alienation in America following the collapse of the family seems likely to have effects from sad to horrific, so of course we close our eyes to this scenario.

      Like

  1. rune kramer

    If some statistical data from Denmark about marriage and other types of family structures which maybe of interest as we seem to be in the vanguard of change regarding family structures.

    From DST (Wikipedia). Go to page 7, Familier

    The graph, Vielser og skilsmisser, shows the number of marriages & divorces per 1,000 citizens per year from 1904 to 2014. Light blue line is marriages, dark line is divorces.

    The Tabel, Familietyper, (Family-types) compares changes from 1990 and 2016.The columns across are Enhed (type), Alle (all), Ingen børn (no children), Mindst 1 barn (minimum one child)
    The types are:
    Enlige mænd (single men)
    Enlige kvinder (single women)
    Ægtep.- forskelligt køn (marriage-different sex)
    Ægtep.- samme køn (marriage-same sex)
    Reg. partnerskab (registered same sex partnership, a precursor for same sex marriage introduced in 1989, same sex marriage permitted in 2012)
    Samlevende par (not married cohabiting couple with common children)
    Samboende par (not married cohabiting couple without common children)

    If one wants to adjust for increase in population-size, it was 5.14 millions in 1990 and 5.71 millions in 2016.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Rune,

      Denmark’s divorce rate has increased from 5,1 per thousand to 7.7 over 26 years! That’s progress. As Irina Dunn said, women need a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Denmark’s feminists must be happy.

      For more (and related) good news, Denmark is Europe’s leader in artifical insemination. See these articles in The Guardian and the BBC.

      But some are worried about the consequences. No one has found out how to help Denmark’s falling birth rate, but some are trying unusual expedients. Spies Travels announced a competition where you have to make a baby to win.

      $nbsp;

      Like

  2. rune kramer

    A word of caution. The spike in divorces in 2013 & 2014 is according to DST also due to changes in divorce legislation, which no longer requires a prior separation period before divorce. So more divorces processed in shorter time. Else divorce rates have been stable since the early-1970’s. If we have a trend change we’ll have to wait a few year until it will become clear.

    Quote´from page 7. (google gives a good translation)
    “Det høje tal i 2013 og 2014 skyldes også, at det nu er muligt at blive skilt uden en forudgående separationsperiode.”

    And the Spies Rejser videos is just marketing. Look at this sentence
    “Se vores film og læs meget mere om vores mission om at få sat nogle flere børnebørn til verden.”
    “…our mission is to get more grandchildren into the world.”

    http://www.spies.dk/doitformom

    Why do they use grandchildren in their marketing? They are not stupid so there is a reason and no it’s not the welfare state’s economic well-being which is already taken care of. Look at 1:28 min into the video. It’s about selling vacations. Nothing more.

    Also I should have added that the average age of a first-time mothers is 29.1 years and for fathers it’s 31.3. Which means that it’s normal to live together and have children before marriage. First-time marriage age for women is 32 and men 35 years.

    http://www.statistikbanken.dk/Statbank5a/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?Maintable=FOD11&PLanguage=0

    The first and third line under ALDER is the age of first-time mothers (line 1) and first-time fathers (line 3).

    To the right you then mark the years and click “VIS TABEL” then click on the “Kurvediagram” arrow for a graph. These ages are not different than back in the 18th century. Norway for example is also not much different than Denmark.

    http://www.bt.no/btmeninger/kronikk/Mors-alder-ved-fodsler—evig-bekymring-97196b.html
    (Google gives a good translation into English)

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Rune,

      It will be interesting to see how these numbers in Europe change in the next decade, following the influx of millions of young Islamic men. Behaviors of people in their 20s have a powerful effect on society, since their decisions about education, work, and family set the course of their lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. peteybee

    Concern about fewer marriages because single parents have all kinds of disadvantages that end up hurting someone (often the women, sometimes men, often the kids) – that at least makes sense. Concern about reduced birth rates strikes me as silly. There’s hardly a shortage of people in the world. If the US starts running low, and we’re not, but if we do, there’s immigration just like in times past. You can assimilate an immigrant in about the same amount of time as it takes to raise a baby to adulthood and educate him or her.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Pete,

      “Concern about reduced birth rates strikes me as silly.”

      I agree, and have often written about the folly of an increasing population during the increasing unemployment of the new industrial revolution.

      But that’s a myopic way to see the effects large numbers of men not marrying.

      (a) What about the women who want children? Being a single parent is difficult.

      (b) Families provide much of the social connections for men. Without those we might get large numbers of alienated or even feral men. Lots of potential for problems.

      (c) Much of the drive for men to work — run the “rat race” — comes from the need for men to provide for their families. What happens when large numbers of men opt out?

      (d) De Tocqueville said that America’s democracy required citizens to work its political machinery for the benefit of future generations. He warned that rootless people would lack that. Childless people lack that connection to the future. Children are our “hostages to fortune”. What happens to a society when a large number of men don’t have children? It will be different. We can only guess how.

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    2. peteybee

      Maybe. I agree completely about (a) in any case. Sounds like something similar to the way behavior changes for the worse in places with major gender imbalances. But the picture you paint, especially in your previous article on this, seems to me just a recipe for people simply getting married later in life, maybe men more so, which would imply more age difference.

      For (c), what happens when people opt out of the “rat race”? Good question. Is it even necessarily bad? Do you have lots of brotherly camaraderie? Spontaneously forming into a revolutionary cult? A society composed of single moms, spinsters, gay guys, and roving bands of casual sex addicts? Not trying to poke fun at this scenario, it’s actually really interesting – just have a hard time seeing how it could work. Call me crazy, but I think to be human means, among other things, an innate need for companionship that sooner or later will win out.

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    3. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Pete,

      “seems to me just a recipe for people simply getting married later in life, maybe men more so, which would imply more age difference.”

      I can’t imagine why you would say that. It’s the exact opposite of what I said.

      “just have a hard time seeing how it could work.”

      What guarantees that it would “work”? Voltaire didn’t intend Dr. Pangloss’ philosophy to be taken seriously.

      “I think to be human means, among other things, an innate need for companionship that sooner or later will win out.”

      This is the usual reaction to social experimentation, that it will all work out somehow. Sometimes it doesn’t. Neither Russia nor China have recovered from their people’s generations as lab rats for “communism”. But they shared your confidence about their glorious experiment, until it was too late. Rah, rah.

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    4. peteybee

      Russian and Chinese communism forced a lot of experimentation on their citizens, sometimes brutally so. That’s mostly not the case today outside of repressively religious places (opposite problem there) and subpopulations where men are removed by war or imprisonment (broken family machine). For most people in western society, any such experimentation is entirely optional. That’s a huge difference.

      So back to men who do not wish to have children or long term partners. 2 very distinct things, come to think of it.

      Lets say men want those things because evolving culture steers them that way, or maybe it’s always been what men want, and it’s just becoming possible now with technology. That is a big point of disagreement, especially if it is from culture, but the motivation might not matter much in terms of effect.

      In the first case (doesn’t want children), their proportion of the population will fall without anyone forcing anyone to do anything, and anyway it’s not a bad thing.

      The second case – doesn’t want L/T partnership … I can see where that may happen for some kind of transitional period, but this is also a self-correcting problem. A single mom is not going to want her kid to be a single mom.

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    5. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Pete,

      You have totally missed the point of the post, which I explained in my previous reply to you. Rapid social experimentation is risky. We fiddle with the controls to social machinery we don’t understand. The result might not work well. The fine ideological reasoning that motivates us to twirl the dials matters not at all to the result.

      You can armchair philosophize to your hearts content about the “rightness” of change, or the reasons for change, or your guesses about the result. That’s not the point here.

      “For most people in western society, any such experimentation is entirely optional. That’s a huge difference.”

      Its irrelevant. Many bouts of rapid social change were voluntary, from the French Revolution (resulting in the Terror and Napoleonic Wars that devastated Europe) to Jonestown.

      “but this is also a self-correcting problem. A single mom is not going to want her kid to be a single mom.”

      A nice demo about the limits of armchair philosophizing. We have decades of experience showing this is not a “self-correcting problem.” Here’s one of the many many newspaper articles about the rise of single parenting since WWII. Here’s one of the many many studies about it.

      Like

    6. peteybee

      Oh it just hit me. The trouble scenario is actually “doesn’t want children but has them by accident” , they’re not separate at all. A “male pill” would help a lot actually.

      Like

  4. douglasproctor

    Post marriage or post long-term cohabitation or post joint child rearing or post procreation?

    Quebec has a 35% marriage rate and a national low birth rate of 1.6 per woman. That’s far below replacement rates of 2.1. Which is why high immigration rates have been introduced, the problem being the highest rates are in the French speaking Muslim immigrants: which leads to the loss of local European French Catholic culture.

    Marriage rates are symptoms, rather than causes of our national (and cultural) crisis. Personally, I have a Darwinian view of these things: the best suited for survival SHOULD survive (and inevitably will). Perhaps the drive for family is an unconscious drive for survival in a risk-filled world – the current physical security of first worlders neutralizes the biological imperative to survive even by proxy. So “coupling” has no individual logic.

    Marriage is a social statement of the intent to be in a long-term relationship, to share and provide joint support for common pursuits and goals. Experience says “long-term” is a pipedream for most regardless of intent, wealth or social/celebrity status. Nevertheless, children imply this commitment, so cynicism says you should wait to see if “it” works until it’s felt too late for children … or the pseudo-union ends.

    Why is the married life a good idea these days? Why have children – on an objective level. I can’t answer either question well. Who can objectively? Without resorting to authority, I mean (religious or demographic).

    We need a personal connection to a social good that comes from long-term term relationships before “marriage”, the traditional family unit and reproducible birth rates will come back in the American/European world. I don’t see where that is going to come from.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Doug,

      “Marriage rates are symptoms, rather than causes of our national (and cultural) crisis.”

      That’s not a useful insight. In the social sciences almost everything can be said to be a “symptom” of deeper forces. Trying to find a “first cause” is pretty hopeless.

      “Why is the married life a good idea these days? Why have children – on an objective level. ”

      You’re missing the point. We have hordes of armchair philosophers making up answers to such questions. My point — expressly stated in this post, but invisible to many readers — is that rapid social experimentation is risky. We fiddle with the controls to social machinery we don’t understand. The result might not work well.

      “the traditional family unit and reproducible birth rates will come back in the American/European world. I don’t see where that is going to come from.”

      We’re considering various likely futures and their consequences. Discussing public policy measures should follow that.

      Note that much of the change in the past two generations resulted from public policy changes – such as eliminating traditional marriage by allowing no-fault divorce, done by Governor Ronald Reagan of California. That was one of the most radical social policy changes of the 20thC, up there with civil rights laws.

      Like

  5. rune kramer

    Quote:
    “…the influx of millions of young Islamic men. Behaviors of people in their 20s have a powerful effect on society, since their decisions about education, work, and family set the course of their lives.”

    Yes, the same goes with the US. When will the European part of the population become a clear minority (30-40 %) and how will it affect which countries the USA will attack in the name of whatever is the current cause celeb.

    As for Europe I would rank the concerns for the future on the long-term with all the uncertainty involved.

    1) Migration from Africa whether Christian and Muslim. Lots of badly governed countries and huge young generations on the way. And plenty of different cultures which will clash with European norms.

    2) Demographic effects of the EU common market. The depopulation of European states due to migrating labour (from Romania to Portugal).

    3) Plus migrating effects of the German solution to the Euro crisis.

    Items 2 & 3 creates a soft European underbelly along the Mediterranean rip for colonization if one uses a grim vision of the future.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Rune,

      Well said! We’re seeing large-scale experimentation in other aspects of society, as our elites twirl the controls — guided by their ideology and ignorance. Creates rapid social change, largely irreversible (like toothpaste out of the tube). We can only guess at the results.

      Like

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