ZENIT—The World Seen From Rome

Delaying Marriage


Report on Family and Social Consequences

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, March 29, 2013 (Zenit.org) – One of the major social changes in recent times is the postponement of marriage. A recent report examined the implications of this development.

“Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America” was published by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and the RELATE Institute.

In the United States the average age at marriage is 26.5 years for women, and 28.7 for men. Yet while the average age at which women give birth to their first child has risen it has lagged behind the extent of delaying marriage.

The median age of first birth is 25.7, below that of a first marriage. As a result, by 25 years of age 44% of women have given birth, but only 38% have married. Consequently, 48% of all first births are now outside of marriage.

“Thus, the nation is at a tipping point, on the verge of moving into a new demographic reality where the majority of first births in the United States precede marriage,” the report stated.

Back in 1970 over 60% of women aged 20 to 24 and 90% of those aged 25 to 29 had married. By 2010, those numbers had plummeted to 20% and about 50%.

Men followed a similar pattern. In 1970, almost half of men aged 20 to 24 were married, and 80% of those 25 to 29 had also married. By 2010, those numbers had plunged to slightly more than 10% and less than 40% respectively.

Middle American women, those who have completed high school and have a year or two of college, are driving this trend. They account for more than half of young women in the United States and collectively they are having their first child two years before marriage. No less than 58% of their first births take place before marriage.


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