The Dollars and Census behind Marriage Rates

The Dollars and Census behind Marriage Rates

April 20, 2017

Failure to Launch isn't just a movie starring Matthew McConaughey. It's a real-life scenario featuring millions of young Americans, new Census data tells us. Saddled with massive student loans and the high costs of living, more Millennials are living at home than ever before. In fact, the agency says, "There are now more young people [aged 18-34] living at home than in any other arrangement." What's more, the study goes on, "almost nine in 10 young people who were living in their parents' home a year ago are still living there today, making it the most stable living arrangement."

The trend is outpacing marriage in record numbers. A whopping 22.9 million of this age bracket have moved back home, compared to the 19.9 million who are married and living with their spouse. That's a huge dropoff from the mid-70s when 31.9 million Americans tied the knot and started homes of their own. And while people are still getting married – much later in life -- it takes until age 45 for eight in 10 people to say "I do" now.

A lot of the blame, Census experts say, can be pinned on the economy. "In 1975, only 25 percent of men, aged 25-34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men." And that drop-off isn't just affecting Millennials. As we know from stacks of social science data, when people put off marriage, they put off childbearing too. That not only makes it difficult for couples to have large families (which keeps our population at replacement levels), but it postpones the cultural evolution that happens when people have children and see the truth represented in conservative ideals.

For the Left, this is fantastic news. Liberals know that weakened families benefit Big Government. FRC's Peter Sprigg wonders if this same dependence on parents also leads to that same dependence on government, because, as he points out, "six of the seven states with the highest percentage of young people living at home voted Democratic in last year's presidential election (New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Florida, California, Rhode Island – only Florida voted Republican), while all of the six states with the lowest percentage living at home voted Republican (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Montana)." What's also been overlooked in a lot of these headlines is that the fastest growing living arrangement is cohabitation -- which was 12 times more likely in 2016 than in 1975. The report explains that "young adults are still starting relationships at the same age that their parents did, but they are trading marriage for cohabitation."

In other words, couples living together (whether married or cohabiting) still outnumber those living with their parents. Unfortunately, other research has made clear that shacking up is not only a less stable arrangement, but it also doesn't offer the same benefits that marriage does. It's fine to value education and economic security as milestones of adulthood, but we literally cannot afford to forget: marriage and parenthood remain key sources of well-being for individuals and society alike.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Also in the April 20 Washington Update:

On the Hill: A Week for the Strong

A May Day for Pastors!

FRC in the Spotlight

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