Opinion: Reasons for the U.S. decline in marriage

Hank Venetta

Hank Venetta

Hank Venetta is an english major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

We’re not living in the 1950s anymore. The conservative white picket fence tableau that has championed the ethos of our country is now disintegrating (if it hasn’t already).

Yeah, I know, that statement is melodramatic. You’re already annoyed. Either way, Americans are taking it easy with marriage. Fact. And frankly, I don’t think it’s anything to get fussy about.

Our grandparents are probably wondering why young people aren’t living the way they did. Some of them attribute the change to a loss of morality and an epidemic of narcissism, which has been typical of every grumpy generation.

We can whine about youth culture all we want, but I’m not going in that direction.

Recently the Pew Research Center, which provides reliable statistics for social demographics (feel free to challenge this), reported that the marriage rate dropped 5% from 2009 to 2010. Is it fair to assume 2011 has a similar rate? I think so. The percentage is indeed drastic.

The report continues, “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”

Evidently, marriage is at its lowest point in history. Why?


Prolonged financial establishment. Here’s a nice example of inflation: in 1968, minimum wage was $1.60, which is equivalent to $10.50 in today’s currency. Food prices went up 6% last year; this is expected to repeat in 2012. Gas is gold. College is bloated with degrees that outnumber high-paying jobs, which lures students into long-term debt.

Financial stability is no longer as easy as it once was. Matrimony can wait in line behind the realists.

2 Instead of neglecting personal freedom that was unavailable years ago, kids are now enjoying it. For instance, living and sleeping together before marriage is acceptable. Look at the residence halls. Tons of us have lived with our special someone in their rooms and only went back to our real room when we needed to grab something. Also, couples often split apartment rent, among other things.

There’s no rush to marry with this much leniency. Did this leniency emerge from immorality, or practicality rooted in socioeconomic shifts?

3 Plenty of us have witnessed marriages falling apart when we were growing up. In many cases, our parents went through a nasty divorce. It is common knowledge divorce rates are absurdly high.

If impressionable youth got their marital values from mama and papa, then maybe the divorced parents who wave their finger should find a more suitable place for it.

4 Adolescence has been extended. If the show “Mad Men” has taught us anything, women often married to serve the husband, who collected a wife for social acceptance and a standard of success.

The pressure to be normal was fierce in earlier decades. Neither sex had opportunities for authentic self-discovery. But they do now.

In sum, don’t be overwhelmed by cultural and familial messages that define a normal pathway. As a person in your own body, mind, time and place, you make that decision yourself.

If you’d like, you can even choose to disregard everything I’ve said in this column and get married tomorrow.