The Marriage Crisis
How marriage has changed in the last 50 years and why it continues to decline
by AJA GABEL
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have made headlines for all sorts of reasons during their relationship, but their latest stint on the cover of gossip magazines was for something that shouldn’t be all that shocking: their decision to marry. Why is it so gossip-worthy? For seven years, the pair had chosen to raise a family while unmarried. The personal relationships of rich and famous actors usually bear little resemblance to those of regular Americans, but in this case the couple’s lifestyle reflects a larger trend.
Only about half of Americans are married now, down from 72 percent in 1960, according to census data. The age at which one first gets married has risen by six years since 1960, and now only 20 percent of Americans get married before the age of 30. The number of new marriages each year is declining at a slow but steady rate. Put simply, if you are an unmarried adult today, you face a lower chance of ever getting married, a longer wait and higher divorce rates if you do get married. The Pew Research Center recently found that about 40 percent of unmarried adults believe that marriage is becoming obsolete.
While marriage is in decline, unmarried cohabitation is on the rise. Fifteen times the number of couples today live together outside of marriage than in 1960. Almost half of cohabiting households include children.
Why should we care about what may be a failing institution? Brad Wilcox, UVA sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project, argues that the institution of marriage still symbolizes core values important to intimate relationships.