Marriage in the U.S. has been on the decline.
An increasing number of Americans are remaining unmarried and without a partner. The growing trend to reject marriage may have some wondering if marriage is worth it. Are there more benefits to marriage than there are for choosing to remain single?
Research shows that marriage is worth it on several metrics. Not only does marriage have positive economic and social benefits, but there’s data that indicates a stable marriage is a predictor of better health.
Here’s an overview of attitudes toward marriage and the pro-social benefits of marriage.
What do Americans think about marriage?
People are getting married less and later.
The U.S. marital rate is at historic lows, per The Hill. Joseph Chamie wrote that not only is the marriage rate declining, the rate of cohabitation is increasing. He also noted, “Today, the proportion of U.S. births to unmarried mothers is about 40%, double the percentage in 1980.”
Lois Collins wrote about survey findings on marriage for the Deseret News, “The survey over time shows a ‘small but meaningful’ decrease in the share of Americans who are married and a matching uptick in those not in relationships. In 2015, half were married. In 2022, the number was 45%, while those not in a relationship rose from 32% to 37%.”
Richard Reeves and Christopher Pulliam said in a Brookings Institute report, “We find that marriage rates among the middle class have declined significantly over the past 40 years and have now fallen below those in the top income quintile.”
As fewer people marry, attitudes towards marriage have also shifted. A 2020 Gallup poll found that only 29% of Americans think it’s important to get married if you have a child, while 38% believed that in 2013 and 49% in 2006.
Writing about the 2021 American Family Survey, Collins reported that while people generally say that marriage is important for strong families, younger people are less likely to say that. She quoted Brad Wilcox, who said that young people are more likely to delay marriage. He added that when they delay marriage, it decreases the chances that they will ever get married.
Per a new study from National Center for Family and Marriage Research reported on by the Deseret News, high schoolers overwhelmingly believe that cohabitation before marriage is a good thing.
In sum, less Americans are getting married and the younger generation is warmer to cohabitation before marriage than previous generations.
What are the benefits of marriage?
Marriage seems to be more beneficial than remaining single.
Pew Research found that married people have a higher chance of having completed a bachelor’s degree, have a higher median income, are more likely to be employed and have higher overall economic success.
Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, argued in The Atlantic that supporting marriage is a social justice cause. He said that “marriage is deeply implicated in many of the social ills at the top of progressives’ (and the pope’s) concerns: child poverty, income inequality, and stagnating family income.”
Wilcox isn’t the only one to observe that marriage is a key factor in poverty reduction.
The left-leaning Brookings Institute joined with the conservative American Enterprise Institute in a working group to make policy recommendations on the issue of poverty. In their joint report, they said if the American public would like to encourage others to climb the economic ladder, it it necessary to “promote a new cultural norm surrounding parenthood and marriage.” Family structure is a predictor of economic, social and emotional health.
Even as marriage attitudes change in the U.S., marriage is still worth it.