While only about 18 percent of Gen X women were married by 40, the number of their Millennial counterparts waiting till age 40 to tie the knot could now almost double, according to a recent study.
Using data from the American Community Survey to estimate age-specific marriage rates, Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute finds that the percentage of Millennials marrying by age 40 will fall lower than for any previous generation of Americans, even in a scenario where marriage rates recover considerably.
In the early millennium period, from 2000 to 2004, the peak first marriage rate for single U.S.-born women at each year of age from 20 to 40 was .099. This indicated that among never-married single women age 25 in that period, just under 10 percent would have married a year later at age 26, says the study titled, “Fewer Marriages, More Divergence: Marriage Projections for Millennials to Age 40.”
From 2004 to 2008, the immediate prerecession period, the peak rate was .088, and in the recession-and-after period, from 2008 to 2012, the peak rate further came down to .075, according to the study.
During the Great Recession, the marriage rate fell because many young adults struggled to get their first jobs and many others were laid off.
If the post-recession marriage rate remains unchanged, only 69.3 percent of women will tie the knot until they reach the age of 40, the study estimates. And if the marriage rate returns to the prerecession levels, it will increase only to 76.8 percent, it adds. Among men, the rates projected are 65 percent and 72.6 percent, respectively.
In any case, the rates will be lower than those among Gen Xers, as about 82 percent of Gen X women and 76.6 percent of Gen X men were married by 40.
The diminishing of the importance of marriage is not a new phenomenon.
“More Americans are living together without getting married, and some are raising families … just without the gold bands,” Neil Howe, an economist and author of several books about Millennials, tells CNN Money.
In addition, Howe adds, marriage used to be the starting point for young adults, as they’d get hitched early and build a life together. But now, many like to wait till they are more established, especially financially.
However, married couples are often better off financially. “The evidence shows that getting married increases wealth and income,” Pamela Smock, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, is quoted as saying.
A pattern of divergence is evident across the racial and ethnic comparisons, the study finds, noting that, overall, racial and ethnic differences in marriage are projected to be more pronounced for Millennials than for any previous generation.
For example, Hispanic women, Non-Hispanic black women and non-Hispanic women of other racial origin are projected to have steeper decrease in marriage than non-Hispanic white women. For men, the patterns are similar, except that the trends for non-Hispanic white men are slightly steeper than those for non-Hispanic other men.
Fewer than half of non-Hispanic black women and men will have married by age 40, the study adds.
Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center report showed that Millennials are less attached to organized politics and religion than older generations, are linked by social media, distrustful of people and in no hurry to marry.
The study found that only about one-fourth of this generation is married. But 69 percent of unmarried Millennials say they would like to marry, but many – especially those with lower levels of income and education – lack what they think is necessary for marriage, a solid economic foundation.