It’s true, many Millennials are choosing to postpone marriage in the current age. Despite what many moralist Baby-Boomers like to say, many of their reasons come not from a change in generational ideals but because of changes in the economy. In fact, many millennial’s put off basic things like home-ownership and having children specifically because of their economic situation. This failure to engage in major life purchases has also affected the economy. It is financial constraints that prevent Millennials from participating in the buying choices that their parents would have by this age.
Pew Research shows record numbers of twenty-somethings are choosing not to tie the knot. In fact, for the first time ever, half of Americans are unmarried with a large percentage being never-married Millennials. But only 13% of these Millennials have no interest in ever getting married. Which means almost 90% want to get married but decide not to, and nearly half of those explicitly state finances as the issue holding them back.
The breakdown of financial causes vary. The vast majority of women in this study (78%) expected a secure job from their mate, a trait hard to find at 24 (though not as hard in our parents’ day). School contributes too, as many young people choose to study longer, get an extra degree, or dump all their money into tuition costs. Some decide to focus on their career first, to have a safety net for a family later (since the average cost of raising a child has jumped to $245,000 says the Department of Agriculture). And while combining your income with a spouse has some financial benefits, it can also have downsides like insurance changes, new joint expenses and possibly additional debt. And, while it may not be scientifically accurate, wedding website The Knot says the average cost of a wedding in 2014 was $28,858 based on their surveys. Sure, you can skip the fanfare, you could keep your bills separate or not have kids but these are the costs facing Millennials who worry about holding down that part-time job.
Of course, there are certainly examples of people who want to have a moral debate about marriage. Lots of younger couples end up living together, or worry about the risk of divorce. Those Millennials exist. But as seen in the Pew study, many of them still hope to one day get married. Only 1 in 10 really takes the anti-marriage stance seriously. (As an aside, I will point out that I hear a lot of my peers talk a lot of game about how marriage is out-dated. But I suspect many of them are in the “one day I hope to do it” category. They use the validity of marriage rhetoric 1) as an excuse not to have to talk about how shitty their financial situation is, and 2) to get their parents to shut up about it already.)
But the problem is more than Millennials pining for the alter. The economy expects young people to make these kinds of “grown-up” purchasing decisions as they age: the matching silverware, the house with more than one room, the inevitable soccer mom car. Without consumers buying products, large portions of the economy end up on hold. No superfluous purchases means companies panic, and when they panic, they don’t hire new talent, which takes jobs away from 22-year old guys who can’t get a date with a girl ready to settle down. This cycle has to end because financially unstable youth can end up impacting every single American.