Since 1970, marriage has been on the decline. The number of people marrying each year has decreased by 50 percent as a portion of the population. While a lot of the decrease is because people aren't marrying at all, other factors are feeding the decline, like couples delaying marriage until their late 20s, the increase in cohabitation, and a slight decrease in the remarriage rate of divorcees.
Cohabitation has increased more than 12 times what it was in 1960. It's rapidly becoming the living arrangement of choice among those who haven't seen a good example of biblical marriage. Included are those who:
- Have been divorced
- Were raised in a divorce, fatherless, or discordant home
- Have lower educational levels
- Have lower income levels
- Are less religious than their peers
An interesting trend that is developing divides Americans into the haves and have-nots when it comes to marriage and family stability. College-age women are actually marrying in higher numbers than ever before, and their divorce numbers continue to drop. They're also more likely than any other group to consider their marriages "very happy." Add to that the fact that among women who delay marriage past age 30, college-educated women are the only group more likely to have children after marriage rather than before.
Now, the have-nots. Women without a college education are experiencing a sharp rise in out-of-wedlock childbearing. One study finds that more than half of these women are having children outside marriage. That compares with just seven percent of college-educated women. Not only that, they're much more likely to cohabit than their more educated peers.
If the marriage example is likely to repeat itself in the next generation, this fork in the marriage road looks to widen quickly over the coming years. Already, more than one-fourth of all children are raised in single-parent homes, and more than 40 percent of cohabiting homes contain children.