When older generations think about Millennials the clichés quickly come to mind. These include the misconception that many are lazy, unwilling to work, and would rather not marry. However, the reality is that this generation is defying the generally accepted truths held by millions of Americans.
A case in point is divorce. In fact, research indicates that Millennials across the board are less likely to get divorced than previous generations – especially Baby Boomers. While most observers lack a good reason why Millennials are bucking what was long considered to be the decline in marriage but there is no denying that the numbers show they are. As such, here are some of the reasons why Millennials are the reason divorce rates are falling.
By the Numbers
While economists and sociologists have been talking about the rise of Millennials for more than a decade, the reality is that the youngest members of this generation turned 18 in 2014. That’s right, Millennials have all grown up now, most are in the workforce, and the oldest have already been married with kids for several years now.
In fact, Millennials are not the largest group of parents with young children in the U.S. today. So much for living in their parent’s basement. This matters because this generation has quietly become the face of ‘Middle America’ – soy lattes, participation awards, and all.
According to data from Gallup, nearly 1 in 3 Millennials have already married but only 3 percent have divorced so far. This might signal tough times ahead for divorce lawyers who specialize in negotiating the division of assets.
However, all indications are that divorce is becoming less common – for now – and this is largely because younger Americans are less likely to part ways. Looking a bit deeper at the details it would appear that the trend could continue for some time.
According to Pew, the median age at which Americans wed was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men. While this does quite capture the fact that many are marrying past the age of 30 and that the median age for Millennials is slightly below the median marrying age for all Americans; it would appear that older Millennials are resisting the seven-year itch.
Location, Location, Location
There is no doubt that an urban/rural divide has cropped back into American life and this is something which is borne out by data on marriage and divorce. In fact, those from rural communities or who grew up in the South tend to marry younger than their peers.
While the reasons for this might be cultural, some sociologists have wondered if there might be other drivers as well. Some of this might be tied to expectations of couples when they get into relationships, while others believe this is tied to the fact that many millennials across the board hold different values. One example of this is reported a drop in extra-marital affairs by Millennials.
Will the Trend Last?
Yes, the dip in divorce rates could end up being temporary but marriage has been changing since the mid-1990’s. Not only are marriage rates lower than in the past, but people are opting to marry later. Both of these trends could lead to a long-term shift in divorce rates regardless of generation – though this will have to play out as Digital Natives, those born after 1995, begin to marry.
One way to know if divorce rates will continue to fall would be to look at studies of cohabitation. These reports look at both married and unmarried couples who are living together and can tell us a lot about the future of the American family.
Based on data from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR), roughly ’11 percent of women who first married between 1965 and 1974 cohabited prior to marriage’. However, the cohabitation rate grew to nearly 66 percent in 2009 and this could pre-marriage cohabitation could be a big reason why today’s married couples are more likely to succeed.
Will the trend last? No one really knows for sure, but several factors which led to higher divorce rates in previous generations are being mitigated by more Americans waiting to get married, cohabitation, as well as cultural influences.
Combined these factors do point to a continued decline in divorce rates and this is another reason why Millennials are continuing to shatter the misconception about their generation. If this plays out, then we could see a dramatic shift in American families as divorce becomes less common than it has been in recent years.