Summary: Although we have only fragments of the full picture, the numbers tell the tale of America entering the post-marriage era. Bombshell numbers, seldom mentioned by journalists. With marriage a foundation stone of our society, we can only guess at what this new future holds for us. Understanding what’s happening is the first step to preparing.
By Dalrock at his website.
I stumbled upon some new marital status data as of November 2017 at the US Census, and thought I’d share the charty goodness. First up is the median age of marriage, going back to 1890.
From the accompanying spreadsheet, you can see that the median age for women crossed into uncharted territory in 1979 at 22.1, breaking the 1890 record of 22. For men, the median age of marriage didn’t exceed the 1890 value of 26.1 until 1989 when it was 26.2. As of 2017 the median age of first marriage for men and women was 29.5 and 27.4, respectively.
But the median age of marriage only tells us about the men and women who do marry. The next two charts give a bit of a look at marital status trends overall.
Note that the top two lines on both charts (married and never married) are driven in part by the increase in age of first marriage. When men and women marry later they spend a smaller percentage of their adult lives married, and a larger percentage counted as never married.
Better yet, look at these patterns by age.
If they had the never married data broken out by age bracket as I was able to do using the Census’ 2014 Family and Livings Arrangements data, we’d have a better understanding of how much of the trend is delayed marriage vs not marrying. Here is the 2014 data.
Another perspective: marriage data by race
The other limitation with the Census charts included above is that changing racial and ethnic demographics could be driving part of the changes we see. Marriage and divorce rates vary widely by race, so it could be that the changes we are seeing in recent decades are due more to racial and ethnic changes than due to an overall societal trend. Fortunately the Census offers a spreadsheet with the marital status data broken down by race and ethnicity. I didn’t take the time to chart this out for all races, but here is what it looks like for White* men and women.
It is clear that the modern view of marriage has been a catastrophe for Black families. I had no idea that …
- Black and White marriage rates started out so close. Note that in 1950 White men were only 4% more likely than Black men to be married, and the same was true for White vs Black women.
- The deterioration of the Black family was already in full swing in the 1950s. It would be interesting to see what social policy changes were underway in the 1950s that might explain this. I suspect there were precursor changes to how illegitimacy was legally handled, as well as welfare policies encouraging single motherhood. It would also help to see the data on Black out of wedlock birth rates, but the data for Blacks is missing until 1969.
Here is the same chart, but starting from 1990 and including Asians and Hispanics.
Important notes about this.
- White and Black men are more likely to be married than women. This is reversed for Asians and Hispanics.
- Asian marriage rates are very nearly as high in 2017 as they were in 1990, while the same figures have dropped for all other races.
- The data for Hispanics is deceptive because first generation Hispanics have very low divorce rates, but native born Hispanics have divorce rates comparable to Blacks. Given that marriage rates decline where the risk of divorce is highest, I expect Hispanic marriage rates to fall dramatically over the coming decades.
These are important numbers. But they ignore a change that drastically affects the picture: the rise of cohabitation by unmarried couples. Couples “shacking up” for a few years before marriage probably explains much of the rising age of first marriage (contradicting the usual explanations).
The decrease in the percent of people married also reflects people shacking up instead of marriage, before marriage, and after divorce (“once burned, twice shy”). While superficially similar to marriage, the differences are radical — and give people’s lives a very different pattern than when most people married and stayed married.
The difference is even greater when there are children. Instability in their living circumstances has many and profound effects.
The numbers tell the tale. In 2005/06 less 60% of US adolescents (11, 13, and 15 years old) lived with both birth parents, per the OCED Family Database (source). That was the lowest level among OECD nations. That number is probably lower today. The numbers are worse among the poor and some minorities. An amazing 40% of children are born to unmarried parents (per the CDC). Children living in fatherless homes are more prone to suicide and crime (see the numbers). Girls living without a father are far more prone to be sexually assaulted.
Update: on a related note, see how the trends of delayed childbearing by women vary — surprisingly – by nation.
I believe the changes today foreshadow far larger changes in the next decade as we entered the post-marital era. This is another of the great experiments the Left is running on America, with us as lab rats. We can only guess at how it will end.
He is a married man living with his wife and our two kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is very interested in how the post feminist world impacts himself and his family, uses his blog to explore these issues. See some of his posts about marriage.
- Time and fantasy: marriage itself has been degraded for many decades.
- The one obstacle she can’t remove: divorce is regarded as a woman’s failure.
- More bad news for marriage is baked in.
For more information
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- An easy fix to make marriages stronger and work better.
- The coming crash of marriage: why, and what’s next.
- Millennial girls had a golden age. Gen Z’s inherit wreckage.
- See how women’s calculus of marriage shapes America.
- Men are going Galt. Marriage is dying. — A review of books from the cutting edge of the revolution.
- Men are abandoning the rat race, & changing American society. — See the data.
- Part 1: Why men are avoiding work and marriage.
- Part 2: Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends on the answer.
- The coming crash as men and women go their own way.
An important book about marriage in the 21st century
Men on Strike:
Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood,
and the American Dream – and Why It Matters.
By Helen Smith.
She is a psychologist specializing in “forensic issues” in Knoxville TN. She has a PhD and two MA’s in something or other. From the publisher about this book…
“American society has become anti-male. Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going ‘on strike.’ They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates. The trend is so pronounced that a number of books have been written about this “man-child” phenomenon, concluding that men have taken a vacation from responsibility simply because they can. But why should men participate in a system that seems to be increasingly stacked against them?
“As Men on Strike demonstrates, men aren’t dropping out because they are stuck in arrested development. They are instead acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In addition, men are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be injured by the myriad of laws, attitudes and hostility against them for the crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century. Men are starting to fight back against the backlash. Men on Strike explains their battle cry.”