I uncovered millennials’ thoughts on marriage and how those differ from previous generations.
April 28, 2015
According to researchers, millennials appear to have different habits and views compared to previous generations.
Graduating senior, Cameron Cofield, of Southern Methodist University is studying for finals, spending fleeting time with friends, and preparing to remove her belongings from her room in the sorority house.
She considers herself to be in a serious relationship with her boyfriend, Eddie. As they prepare to move to different cities, Cofield said she is independently pursing her passions in finance. Is she a typical millennial avoiding marriage in her early twenties by chasing a higher degree of education? It appears that Cofield is one of many millennials delaying marriage to pursue other desires in education and career path.
Currently, millennials range in age from 18 to 34 while the Silent Generation is 70 to 90 years of age. Studies by Pew Research Center and the US Chamber Foundation have shown that the millennials’ values and opinions of education and relationships differ from previous generations. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, the average age for a millennial woman to marry is 27 and 29 for a millennial man. Their research also concluded that the Silent Generation married at 21 and 23 respectively. With an average six year increase in marrying age from the Silent Generation to the millennials, the millennial generation is thought to marry later in life than any other generation, and the reasons why continue to be deliberated.
Studies done by the US Chamber Foundation report that even though tuition prices are increasing, college enrollment continues to rise. Education is thought to be a factor in delayed marriage. Seventy-two percent of millennials graduate high school, and 68 percent of those students go to college according to the foundation.
Pew Research Center found many statistical differences between the Silent Generation and the millennials. According to Pew’s article “How Millennials Today Compare with their Grandparents 50 Years Ago,” millennial women are four times more likely to earn a bachelors degree than the Silent Generation women. Millennial women are also more likely to work during their young adult years compared to the Silent Generation. Sixty-three percent of women are in the work force while just 38 percent of the Silent Generation women worked during their young adult years reported Pew Research.
Dr. Sheri Kunovich, sociology professor at Southern Methodist University, agrees with much of the research found by the US Chamber Foundation and the Pew Research Center. She said more students are receiving higher degrees of education and wanting to obtain stable careers before marriage. She added that across social classes people are marrying later, and some are choosing to never marry but cohabitate in long-term relationships.
Throughout many millennial studies, experts compare this generation to the Silent Generation, yet what makes the Silent Generation the base for all comparison? According to Dr. Kunovich, if experts studied generations prior to World War II, they would find men and women marrying closer to the age people are marrying in the 21st century. She offered the reasoning that marriage was expensive, and men were greatly outnumbered in the western United States. The consensus Pew Research Center found was that millennials want to be financially prepared, ready to settle down, and want to find the right qualities in a person before they get married.
According to Pew Research, more millennials are cohabitating with their committed partner rather than marrying them. Pew cited that the number of cohabitating unmarried partners has close to doubled since 1990. Dr. Kunovich added, the stigma of living together prior to marriage has nearly been erased in parts of the United States.
Adam Price, junior at Southern Methodist University and son to one college educated parent, said that education is very important to him because it allows for greater opportunities in the job market. He said, “It was my decision to go to college, and I do feel like it will propel me further in life than someone who didn’t graduate.”
Long term, many students agree that higher education is worth the expense. The US Chamber Foundation said, “Students recognize that more education leads to higher earnings throughout life,” and many “have a transactional relationship to education, seeing education as a necessary and expensive community good.” This outlook leads to high degrees of education. “Higher education is appearing essential for economic security, as more jobs are requiring postsecondary education,” the foundation found.
According to the US Chamber Foundation, with limited jobs available, employers are hiring more experienced workers, and when desired jobs are hard to find, the millennials choose to stay in school. “Since 2010, just 54 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 have been employed, the lowest level since 1948,” added the foundation.
Margaret Jones, sophomore at Southern Methodist University, said she anticipates she will attend graduate school because it is “a fundamental way to further your education while specializing in something you’re passionate about. I feel like it places you significantly above a future competitor with an undergraduate degree and opens more doors.”
According to Pew Research, “The lower socioeconomic classes have the same desire to get married as more secure people, but they put more emphasis on finding a stable career before marriage. Some may not gain the stability that they desire and therefore continue to postpone marriage.” Pew found that 68 percent of twenty-somethings were married in the 1960s, and only 26 percent were married in 2008.
Career minded sophomore, Tegan Webster, is studying marketing and French with a minor in advertising at Southern Methodist University. As she thinks about her future, she said she wants to be successful but have time for a family. She agrees with many millennial studies that women are more career focused than they have ever been. Webster offers another idea for why the millennial generation refuses marriage for many years. She said, “Our culture is over sexualized. It takes people longer to figure out that they want monogamy.”