This past week The New York Times released a report that made those holding steadfast to monogamy jump with joy: American divorce rates are the lowest they've been since the 80's. But why? The answer is a simple one: Millenials aren't getting married.
As a college student I'm constantly bombarded with questions from the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in my immediate circle about having kids and tying the knot. This past Mother's Day my grandmother raised her glass, surrounded by her family and friends, and toasted "to mothers," then she looked at me, winked, and said "and future mothers." My mother just about choked on her wine and my father burst into a hysterical fit of laughter; I'm 20 years old, so the concept of marriage to me is about as appealing as the idea of swallowing a branding iron.
By 20 years old, my grandmother was married with two children and had another on the way. In her eyes, I'm practically a spinster and my vagina is all but sewn shut. When my mother was my age, she was in a steady monogamous relationship and had four proposals on the horizon.
According to statistics, I'm not alone in my youthful singlehood. In a recent series of Pew Polls, marriage rates among the millennial generation are reportedly at the lowest that they've been in six decades, with the percent of people who've tied the knot being a miniscule 26%. Just to give some perspective, at the same age as millennials are now (18-29), 36% of Generation Xers, 48% of baby boomers, and 65% of the Silent Generation were married. So, in accordance with my grandmother's views, I guess I sort of qualify as a spinster. Great. *Tips back wine glass.*
Researchers believe that the reasons for this rising trend among millennials can be chalked up to three things: One, they've grown up around an unattractive 50%-plus divorce rate; they realize that, as Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg has said - the single most important decision you can make in your life is identifying your life partner. Two, they haven't found what they're looking for in a significant other, and don't want to rush it -- divorce is miserable and we know this. And three, millennials feel that they are not in good enough financial standing to build a family. As a millennial myself, I can attest to all of these.
Conclusively, I think it can all be summed up by the fact that we are the individualized, technologically redefined generation.
With the absolutely crazy influx of media productivity -- the present population of the world currently using social media sites is now at a record 1.73 billion -- creating a social platform that has dramatically altered the dating scene and the push for secondary education creating the largest population of college students that this world has ever seen, millennials are trading monogamous relationships for "casual dating" and early marriages for diplomas.
You see, casual dating is a result of apps and online dating sites that make it easier to meet people and connect based on paper-friendly attributes, but they also make it easier for millennials to meet a lot of people. We can seek out those who fit the budgetary checklist, those who have the physique of a Greek God/Goddess, and the men/women who could provide financial stability while still being able to value individuality.
Digital media has propagated what I like to call the Fairytale Complex: we actively seek out the perfect person, that Prince or Princess, who we feel will live up to the fantasy we've created in our heads of the perfect person. Social media platforms have catalyzed this because, by making it easier to meet people all around the world through various outlets, we feel that the perfect person is easier to meet and create a life with. The only problem is, now that we believe finding the "perfect" person is a possibility, we're getting pickier; thus creating the cycle in which millennials pursue casual dating and college in place of steady monogamy. As a result, marriage is rapidly declining in favor of the "hook-up" culture and college degrees.
Keeping the idea of college in mind, the 21st century wave of college-driven youth is dramatically revolutionizing the age-relevant concept of marriage. According to a recent report, it was projected that approximately 21 million students were enrolled in American colleges and universities in the fall of 2014. In juxtaposition, numerous studies and statistics have reported that people who pursue secondary education are more likely to stave off marriage in favor of diplomas and careers; the new median age for married women has risen to 27, with men trailing closely behind at 29.
However, millennials are not opposed to the idea of marriage itself. In fact, they feel quite the opposite: it was reported in a recent poll that 61% of millennials say that the idea of marriage is a pleasant one, they just don't feel that they are in the right stage of life.
In sum, it seems that divorce rates are indeed at an all-time low, and millennials are pursuing secondary education and the potential for "greener grass" over marriage itself. Hilariously enough, millennials did find a solution to the divorce problem that has been plaguing the institution of marriage for centuries: they just stopped getting married.