The Disestablishment of Marriage – people delaying marriage
- Every year a woman delays marriage, her chance of divorce decreases. Good reason to take your time and choose
By Chiara Atik for HowAboutWe
The New York Times (Link) ran an interesting story on the “disestablishment” of marriage this weekend, which unpacks the state of marital unions in this country – which is not as bleak as you might think! People are still getting married – just a little bit later than what used to be the norm.
And whereas anyone who’s seen Our Town or played the board game Life can tell you that marriage used to be the biggest decision a person makes in their lifetime, one that defined their time on earth more than any other, these days, marriage is just. An important decision still? But one of many, many you will make over the course of your life, and no more life altering than deciding what college to go to, whether to take that new job at a smaller company, or move to Paris for a year, or go back for your Master’s, etc., etc.
By the time the average American is getting married, they’ve probably made a bunch of important decisions already. In other words, marriage is no longer the start of adult life (as it was mid-century), but rather the merging of two. (The decision to have children, however, and who with, still remains a doozy, though.)
The average age of a newlywed in the US in 2011? 27 for women, and 29 for men. And if that (sort of low-seeming?) number is panicking you, keep this in mind: every year a woman delays marriage, up to her early 30s, her chance of divorce decreases. Good reason to take your time and choose wisely.
(Link): The Disestablishment of Marriage
- By STEPHANIE COONTZ
…But rumors of the death of marriage are greatly exaggerated. People are not giving up on marriage. They are simply waiting longer to tie the knot. Because the rate of marriage is calculated by the percentage of adult women (over 15) who get married each year, the marriage rate automatically falls as the average age of marriage goes up.
In 1960, the majority of women were already married before they could legally have a glass of Champagne at their own wedding. A woman who was still unwed at 25 had some reason to fear that she would turn into what the Japanese call “Christmas cake,” left on the shelf.
Today the average age of first marriage is almost 27 for women and 29 for men, and the range of ages at first marriage is much more spread out.
In 1960, Professor Cohen calculates, fewer than 8 percent of women and only 13 percent of men married for the first time at age 30 or older, compared with almost a third of all women and more than 40 percent of all men today.
Most Americans still marry eventually, and they continue to hold marriage in high regard. Indeed, as a voluntary relationship between two individuals, marriage comes with higher expectations of fairness, fidelity and intimacy than ever.
But marriage is no longer the central institution that organizes people’s lives. Marriage is no longer the only place where people make major life transitions and decisions, enter into commitments or incur obligations. The rising age of marriage, combined with the increase in divorce and cohabitation since the 1960s, means that Americans spend a longer period of their adult lives outside marriage than ever before.
… An analogous process is taking place with marriage. Many alternatives to traditional marriage have emerged. People feel free to shop around, experimenting with several living arrangements in succession. And when people do marry, they have different expectations and goals. In consequence, many of the “rules” we used to take for granted — about who marries, who doesn’t, what makes for a satisfactory marriage and what raises the risk of divorce — are changing.
Until the 1970s, highly educated and high-earning women were less likely to marry than their less-educated sisters. But among women born since 1960, college graduates are now as likely to marry as women with less education and much less likely to divorce.
And it’s time to call a halt to the hysteria about whether high-earning women are pricing themselves out of the marriage market. New research by the sociologist Leslie McCall reveals that while marriage rates have fallen for most women since 1980, those for the highest earning women have increased, to 64 percent in 2010 from 58 percent in 1980. Women in the top 15 percent of earners are now more likely to be married than their lower-earning counterparts.
….Until recently, women who married later than average had higher rates of divorce. Today, with every year a woman delays marriage, up to her early 30s, her chance of divorce decreases, and it does not rise again thereafter. If an American woman wanted a lasting marriage in the 1950s, she was well advised to choose a man who believed firmly in traditional values and male breadwinning. Unconventional men — think beatniks — were a bad risk. Today, however, traditionally minded men are actually more likely to divorce — or to be divorced — than their counterparts with more egalitarian ideas about gender roles.
Over the past 30 years, egalitarian values have become increasingly important to relationship success. So has sharing housework. As late as 1990, fewer than half of Americans ranked sharing chores as very important to marital success. Today 62 percent hold that view, more than the 53 percent who think an adequate income is very important or the 49 percent who cite shared religious beliefs.
Two-thirds of couples who marry today are already living together. For most of the 20th century, couples who lived together before marriage had a greater chance of divorce than those who entered directly into marriage. But when the demographer Wendy Manning and her colleagues looked at couples married since 1996, they found that this older association no longer prevailed. For couples married since the mid-1990s, cohabitation before marriage is not associated with an elevated risk of marital dissolution.
In fact, among the subgroups of women facing the greatest risk of divorce — poor minority women, women who have had a premarital birth or were raised in single-parent families, and women with a history of numerous sex partners — cohabitation with definite plans to marry at the outset is tied to lower levels of marital instability than direct entry into marriage. America may soon experience the transition that has already occurred in several countries, like Australia, where living together before marriage has become a protective factor against divorce for most couples.