From the impending extinction of the napkin industry and department stores, millenials are consistently defying the odds and challenging norms. It’s increasingly popular to see articles and featured stories about how this generation changes things for the worst- except for the most recent headline: millenials are single-handedly dropping divorce rates.
A recent study by the University of Maryland’s own Professor Philip Cohen provided data proving that American divorce rates declined by 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, by the hands of the younger generation (coined “millennials”). Cohen made this discovery by calculating what’s called a refined divorce rate. He found this by taking record of every divorce per 1,000 married women. Even when taking same-sex marriages into account, all the data pointed to divorce losing popularity as times and expectations change.
Cohen stated in an interview with Business Insider, “In the last two decades, for the first time, married woman are more like to have college degrees than women who aren’t married…marriage and college go together more and more, and that leads to lower divorce rates.”
For the sake of comparison, Cohen said in his academic paper, “The Coming Decline of Divorce,” that among American individuals ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has nearly doubled from 1990 to 2015, with even higher rates for those 65 years or older. It was a social expectation put on past generations to marry by a certain age and most women chose not to continue their education before or after they became a wife.
Due to the economic status of America during their time, a degree wasn’t necessary for most jobs, therefore, most working men didn’t go to college out of necessity. Nowadays, more and more industries require at least a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level job.
Cohen infers that the pressure to marry lead most baby boomer couples to hastily decide who they were going to marry, which later caused the boomers to become, as Cohen puts it, “divorce-prone.”
A possible contributor is average age for a first marriage. Cohen’s analysis found that the average age millennials are first getting married is 27 years old for women and 29 for men. In more populated areas, such as New York or Washington D.C., the average ages are higher. While for boomers, John Fleming’s 2016 Gallup poll determined that 40 percent of baby boomers had their first marriage when they were 18-25 years old.
Cohen is eager to point to the typical millenial’s desire to be financially situated and educated before settling down. A disappointing factor he takes in is the job market demanding higher education, especially those who choose to attend grad school. Most millennials don’t enter the working world until an average age range of 25-27 years old, which is notably later than the generation before them, which, naturally, leaves little time to run off and get married. For most of this generation, the pause put on marriage causes the relationship to crawl rather than run to the altar. Cohen is confident that the increased time two people stay in a relationship decreases the risk of divorce.
Another element is the fact that a lot of millenials choose not to marry altogether. It’s becoming common and socially accepted to not marry at all, Cohen says, since most feel like it’s too expensive and unnecessary. With the average American wedding costing on average of $33,000 (that’s not including the honeymoon) as stated by Business Insider, it’s no surprise that a recent graduate going into the workforce later than the previous generation scoffs at that kind of price tag.
Lora Galoyan, an economics major at University of San Diego, helped put this into perspective by sharing that marriage is, “just too expensive,” especially since she’ll have $200,000 in student loans by the time she graduates law school. Her boyfriend, Alex, has already accumulated $80,000.
Galoyan adds, “With what we already have attached to our names, I can’t imagine why we’d impose more debt on ourselves until we’re a little more financially stable.” She remains confident that her and Alex will have their big day. It’s just acknowledged that it won’t be for a long while- meaning, she feels strongly she won’t be married until she’s closer to 30-years-old.
Collaborative health and human services major at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), Raquel Magadan-Sanchez, said there’s “no way” she’s getting married until she graduates. She asserts, “I don’t even want an engagement ring until I’ve got at least bachelor’s degree under my belt.”
With plans for grad school in the air, she’s made it clear that her education always has and always will take priority over marriage.
That’s not to say that she’s dismissed marriage in her future; Raquel and her longtime boyfriend are definitely factoring that into their future together. However, like most millennials, expenses, higher education and broader visions for themselves makes the idea of marriage less appealing as it once was for earlier generations.