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No marriage please, I’m educated

Weddings delayed for young people not because of recession but because they are in school


 

There is an increasing number of young people delaying marriage, and Time magazine wants you to believe it’s because of the recession. In reality, they are neglecting the steady increase in female enrolment in post-secondary education over the past 40 years and its implications on the gender norms we’re used to seeing.

They cite a stat from the Wall Street Journal:

“In many big cities, never-married young adults are a strong majority among their peers. In San Francisco, 82% of adults between 25 and 34 had never been married in 2009, the largest share among big U.S. cities. Atlanta, New York and Minneapolis were all among the top 20 U.S. cities with the largest share of never-married young adults, with shares greater than 75%.”

And Canada is experiencing a similar trend.

Instances of marriage among people aged 25-34 have been on a steady decline since 1970, while the average age of first-time marriage rose to 30.2 years for grooms and 28.2 years for brides in 2003.

Conversely, the number of women enrolling in universities and colleges has been on a steady increase during that same time frame. By 1988, female post-secondary enrolment in Canada had eclipsed that of their male classmates, and the divide has only grown since.

So it would seem this so-called dramatic dip in marriage rates isn’t much of a dip at all nor does it have anything to do with fiscally responsible thinking in a time of turmoil and uncertainty. It’s part of a growing trend of women gaining independence and taking control of their lives, furthering their own ambitions and avoiding the traditional barefoot-and-pregnant image.

Another line of thinking believes that the marriage decline is due to Generation Y’s laziness, claiming that young people are moving back in with their parents and not doing anything with their lives. For some, marriage is seen as a big contribution to improving society and youth delaying such an important act is seen as selfish.

In reality, delaying marriage in exchange for school seems like the most selfless thing a young person could do for society. Indeed, Philip Oreopoulos, a University of Toronto researcher told the Toronto Star in 2007 that this “shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing – especially if the return (on) this investment is substantial. There is evidence that a more educated society helps foster economic growth, reduce crime and promote citizenship.”

To all those shaking their heads at all the young, lazy unmarried youth, I say buck up. A more educated and equitable society — the kind we’ve been building for 40 years — is more valuable for everyone.


 

No marriage please, I’m educated

  1. During the summer I went to an old couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. I consider that a greater accomplishment than getting a degree.

    In a more nuts and bolts practical sense, a stable marriage is a good environment to raise a kid. I once heard it said that being a parent is the closest thing the average person can experience to being a saint, in the sense of putting another person entirely before oneself. With that focus, marriage makes some sense. Education is important (and I’d argue that an institution isn’t the only place one can learn in), but I think that old gibberish about family values is at least of equal importance in society.

  2. Hi RobAnthony,

    I think the article wasn’t necessarily getting at replacing marriage with getting a degree. Rather that many young people aren’t getting married, and instead waiting until they are older, because they are still in school.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing, because then you have a larger percent of higher-educated married couples, which can be great for many things like improved population health, crime rates, and economy.

  3. It seems to me that any article like this one, where a complex, multifaceted phenomenon is ‘explained’ by any one cause is inherently flawed. Society has changed – for both men and women. From my own experience (as a Gen Yer who got married at 24 while still in university to a similar aged individual who was still in university), it seems that there are many causes leading to people getting married later in life. Beyond the obvious reasons of women being educated, economic uncertainty and ‘laziness’ of the generation (although it seems to me that every generation seems to remember themselves working much harder than the succeeding one), there are numerous other possible clauses, including:
    – Less religious pressure placed on marrying young (or marrying at all – note the effects of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec;
    – No draft causing young people to go to war (i.e. Vietnam, WWII, etc.) and causing pressure to cement relationships early on;
    – Better birth control and more acceptance of abortions;
    – Less societal pressure (i.e., if you are not married at 25, you are not considered to be an ‘old maid’);
    – Greater acceptance among females of sexual freedom;
    – A feeling that it is acceptable for females to date numerous males and not marry them; and
    – The availability of in vitro fertilization and better neonatal care extending the period that females may conceive and have a viable child.

    There are likely many more reasons for the delay in marrying than I can think of offhand.

    That being said, at 28, many of my friends are married and have been for a few years. It makes me wonder if people are starting to get married at a younger age.

    Oh, and none of my friends still live with their parents or have moved back in after having previously moved out. All work or are actively pursuing education (or both) and although none of my friends had to climb a snowy hill, both ways to get to and from school, they still work quite hard . . .

  4. No time to date – I’m a student with a job. I really do feel like I won’t have the opportunity to find love and marriage until my focus is away from school.

  5. Why does anyone have to ever marry or have a family? Why not do what feels good and not worry about tomorrow?

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