The last of my childhood friends just got married. I was never the person that daydreamed about my fairytale wedding, I fantasized about my career because ya know, your career will never wake up in the morning and tell you it doesn't love you anymore. As someone who was born and raised in a town like Las Vegas—where they treat weddings with the same sanctity as a McDonalds drive thru Big Mac—I never understood the obsession with getting married. Now, I’m 31, unmarried and still in pursuit of my own American Dream.
But then why now is marriage at its lowest historical rate? According to Pew Research, “Adults are marrying later in life, and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.” Perhaps this is because the American Dream—the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity via hustle—has changed drastically. One hundred year ago, America looked different and so did the opportunities. Many of our grandparents have “rags to riches” stories that tell the tale of their struggle to their ultimate success. This isn’t the case anymore because so many of us are born into debt or are coming out of college in a financial crisis. In 2018, over 44 million Americans have student loans and Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 have an average of $42,000 in debt each, if that isn’t a boner killer, I don’t know what is.
Our parents did not have access to Tinder, Bumble and Grindr to satisfy their sexual appetites, but can you imagine the stories they would tell us if they did?
And even if millennials still want to get married, we're delaying marriage longer than ever before. Growing up, I witnessed many of my friend’s parents get divorced and it turned me off—and, I think, my friends off—to the concept of marriage. Over half of millennials remain unmarried or without kids according to 2016’s Gallup poll. In the 1950s, however, a family of four could survive off a working father’s salary while the mother stayed at home full time. Now that’s pretty much impossible...unless Dad is Jeff Bezos.
Dating apps have also changed the way we view relationships and connection. Our parents did not have access to Tinder, Bumble and Grindr to satisfy their sexual appetites, but can you imagine the stories they would tell us if they did? This is what future generations have to look forward to; our online dating escapades. As millenials, many of us still had the inarguable expectation (from our parents) to go to college, find a good job, settle down and get married just as the generations before us had done. Millenials were in the middle of college during the 2008 housing market crash that led to a major collapse our economy and finding a stable job became the number one priority. The only problem was, there weren’t many jobs available that provided a steady income to afford the cost of living. Financial instability due to student debt is a major contributor to marriage decline.
“The capstone is the last brick you put in place to build an arch,” Dr. Cherlin said. “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now it is often the last. (Cherlin, 2018 as cited in NY Times) It will be interesting to see how these new trends will affect marketing marriage to future generations. I’m not getting married in 2018 because i’m simply not ready, maybe I won’t ever be, and that’s ok too.
If you are an unmarried millennial, just know you aren’t alone, and it’s most likely not because of you—unless, of course, it is.