The Global Flight From the Family
This is from the WSJ. You might have to log in to read the whole thing. I visited their page three different times. The first two times, I was told to subscribe if I wanted to read it, on the third visit, I was granted full access.
As a celibate, middle aged, never married lady who never had kids, I don’t care if marriage rates are falling and people are refraining from having kids. This is another one of those panicked, hand-wringing editorials about how people are not marrying or having kids.
As Melanie Notkin pointed out on Twitter in regards to this WSJ editorial, not all people are deliberately choosing to delay marriage or avoid it altogether – there is a huge number of women who want to marry and have no idea why they’ve never been married.
Such women did not plan on being single and childless into their 30s and older, but there they are – and yet, they get blamed for it, by commentators who assume they intentionally avoided marriage and motherhood, for selfish reasons, or to worship career, or whatever.
These types of editorials almost never mention the scores of women who had planned and hoped on marrying (and/or having children), but it did not pan out for them because they never met a suitable partner.
- Much the same has been taking place around East and Southeast Asia for at least a generation. From South Korea to Singapore, China is rimmed by countries where marriage is being postponed or, increasingly, forgone; where networks of extended kin are withering due to extreme sub-replacement fertility; and where childlessness is on the rise.
- Nowadays about one-sixth of Japanese women in their mid-40s are still single, and about 30% of all women that age are childless. Twenty years hence, by Mr. Kaneko’s projections, 38% of all Japanese women in their mid-40s would be childless, and an even higher share—just over 50%—would never have grandchildren.
- To be sure, unlike Europe and the U.S., Japan still severely stigmatizes childbearing outside marriage. Childlessness, on the other hand, is socially acceptable.
- Japanese women are availing themselves of these new choices. Given recent trajectories, demographers Miho Iwasawa and Ryuichi Kaneko project that a Japanese woman born in 1990 stands less than even odds of getting married and staying married to age 50.
- Contemporary Japanese women have lifestyle options that were unthinkable for their grandmothers, including divorce, separation, cohabitation and remaining single.
- Lest one suspect that there is something about this phenomenon that is culturally specific to Western countries, we have Japan, whose fabled “Asian family values” are now largely a thing of the past.
- But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.
- The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging.
- Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%.
- In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly.
- The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy.
- Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness.
- In Belgium—the birth-land of the scholars who initially detected this Second Transition—the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five. A number of other European countries have similar or even lower odds.
- According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance of divorce for those who do marry has been soaring.
- Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.
- In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons.
- Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society).
- Unless there is a change in this “revealed preference” against married unions that include children, within the foreseeable future American children who reside with their married birthparents will be in the minority.
- A 2011 study by two Census researchers reckoned that just 59% of all American children (and 65% of “Anglo” or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009.
- But the opt-out from the old family norm is even more advanced than these figures suggest.
- As of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside marriage, and for 2014 the Census Bureau estimated that 27% of all children (and 22% of “White” children) lived in a fatherless home.
- …To evaluate the world-wide flight from the family, we can start in the U.S. Remarkably enough, we do not actually know the probabilities of getting married and staying married in America today, because the government doesn’t collect the information needed to make an estimate. We do know that both marriage and in situ parenting are increasingly regarded as optional for child-rearing.
- We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.
‘They’re getting divorced, and they’ll do anything NOT to get custody of the kids.” So reads the promotional poster, in French, for a new movie, “Papa ou Maman” (“Daddy or Mommy”), plastered all over Paris during my recent visit there. The movie sounds like quintessential French comedy, but its plot touches on a deep and serious reality—and one not particular to France.
All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy.
- It’s not only in the West or prosperous nations—the decline in marriage and drop in birth rates is rampant, with potentially dire fallout.
- Thus far the Chinese mainland has been conspicuously resistant to these trends.
- …According to the U.N. Population Division’s “World Marriage Data 2012,” the proportion of never-married women in their late 30s was higher in Morocco in 2004 than in the U.S. in 2009 (18% vs. 16%).
- By the same token, the percentage of single women in their early 40s was higher in Lebanon in 2007 than in Italy in 2010 (22% vs. 18%). And nearly 32% of Libyan women in their late 30s were unmarried in 2006—20 times the percentage barely two decades earlier, even higher than for Denmark in 2011 (29%).
- Every stage of the Arab world’s female flight from marriage is taking place on roughly a third of the GDP per capita, and just half the mean years of schooling, of the corresponding steps for societies from the affluent West or the affluent East.
(Link): The Netherworld of Singleness for Some Singles – You Want Marriage [or maybe children] But Don’t Want to Be Disrespected or Ignored for Being Single While You’re Single [or for being childless while you are childless]