People are waiting longer to get married and so more single twentysomethings in Generation Y will go on to marry in their 30s than in previous generations. Today, 5% of men and 10% of women aged 25 are married, compared to 60% of men and 80% of women 44 years ago.
Graph by The Marriage Foundation
But it’s not simply about waiting for those 17.8m single Britons—one third of the population—to couple up.
Map of all the single people in England and Wales:
Most of the Baby Boomer generation married at some stage, with 87% of men and 92% of women tying the knot at least once. But husbands and wives are expected to become a minority, making up 41% of the population, by 2031. The fastest growing group will be those who remain single, and analysis by the Marriage Foundation, using the latest Office for National Statistics data, suggests that only half of today’s 20-year-olds will ever marry—52% of men and 53% of women.
Graph by The Marriage Foundation
So why won’t Generation Y tie the knot?
Rise of the adult-child
Generation Y have graduated from university and started work in some of the most challenging economic conditions for decades.
Bobby Duffy, who is leading Ipsos Mori’s work on generational analysis, says there are far more pressures on millennials than previous generations. “They’ve come out of university with more debt and that’s a burden for them. They’re coming into an economic situation that’s been pretty tough for a large number of years, a record-breaking recession and they’re coming into a housing market that’s been incredibly buoyant, with prices rising very quickly in lots of areas,” he says.
House price increases are accelerating, with UK house prices 9.9% higher than a year ago. In London, where the house price rises are steepest, the average home costs 20% more than a year ago.
As a result of the challenging economic circumstances, far more twentysomethings are living with their parents than ever before.
Number of 20- to 34-year olds living with their parents:
Infographic by ONS
Twentysomethings today are transitioning into adult life at a more gradual pace, delaying plans for serious marriage and a home of their own.
“Practical constraints on getting married are stronger now than for previous generations,” says Mr Duffy. “It’s pretty difficult to become independent at the same stage as previous generations were able to.”
No wonder the biggest surge in weddings is among those aged 65 or over—with a lifetime’s worth of savings behind them to support married life.
Generation Y’s attitude to marriage is shaped by their parents, the Baby Boomers, who gave marriage a bad name with their divorce-happy habits.
Baby Boomers saw divorce reach a peak in 1993 and as the offspring of these broken homes, Generation Y are less likely to follow the same path.
Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, says that there’s a strong link between parental divorce and a reluctance to get married. “If your parents split up then most people are more likely to be quite sceptical about the value of marriage,” he explains. “So as there’s rising divorce rates, you can imagine how when the next generation appears, people will be more dubious about marriage.”
And just as divorce has put Generation Y off marriage, cohabitation—living with a partner without marrying them—has become more socially acceptable.
Cohabitation has dramatically increased in the past 50 years. In the early 1960s, less than 1% of adults under 50 are estimated to have been cohabiting, compared with one in six in 2010. “Co-habitation is a new phenomenon. It really didn’t exist in a meaningful way until the 1970s,” says Mr Benson.
Mr Benson says that, although cohabitation is considered a reasonable path to marriage, it involves serious commitment with relatively little consideration, and so can foster mediocre relationships.
“People tend to see cohabitation as a win-win scenario—it’s a good test of a future relationship and a stepping stone to marriage. What most people forget is when you move in with someone, then you’re also having commitment thrust upon you whether you have a plan for the future or not. Co-habiting relationships tend to drift on through sheer inertia, because of the difficulty of extracting yourself,” he says.
And substandard relationships between cohabiting partners can put Generation Y off marriage.
“The kind of commitment you really want involves decisions you make about the future—you want to build dedication first, and not constraints,” he says. “The result is poorer quality relationships forming in the first place which means, when they break up, you’re starting everything later and you’re more sceptical of the next relationship.”
Workaholics – who has time for dating?
While Generation Y are less keen to take the plunge into marriage, they’re also investing more time into work.
A 9am to 5pm working day is now little more than a fantasy, with millennials so grateful to secure a job in today’s economic climate that evening work and Saturday shifts are common.
“Technology allows a blurring of lines between work and leisure time for lots of people. It’s difficult to leave the office behind,” says Bob Duffy from Ipsos Mori. “You can see increased flexibility in service sectors where people have to work unpredictable shift patterns, the growth of zero hour contracts. All of which makes life less steady.”
And the technology that has allowed work life to blend into leisure time also consumes our personal lives.
Mr Duffy says that online activity not only takes up our time, but encourages Generation Y to be more individualistic.
“One of the strongest tendencies you see across younger generations now is a big push towards a more individualised outlook, which comes from cultural and technological context,” he says. “People are much more used to being able to make connections to groups very easily and then break those and make other connections to people.”
So is it death to the couple? Perhaps smug marrieds will become a lonely minority, overrun by joyful singletons from Generation Y. But then again, the very technology that encourages independence could help millennials to find love.
Online dating – the modern day matchmaker
Online dating has gone from being a stigmatised oddity to one of the most common ways of meeting a serious partner.
Today, 27% of relationships begin online, according to a study commissioned by eHarmony and compiled by The Future Foundation. Half of relationships will start online by 2031 and nine years later, in 2040, seven in ten relationships will begin online. And a poll of 20,000 married couples, also funded by eHarmony, found that while 8% of those who met offline separated or divorced, just 6% of those who met online split up.
“Online dating has replaced personal ads and that in turn replaced village matchmakers and your social network,” says Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oxford University.
Professor Dunbar says that online dating can lead to mismatched pairings, where the relationship is based on idealisation instead of reality.
“In the normal course of building a relationship you have to build a rosy sunglasses picture of the person concerned and the more rosy that picture is, the longer the relationship will last,” he explains. “Offline, you keep meeting the person and can come to a compromise between fiction and reality. If you use online dating, the other person can hold you off from meeting them until you’re so sucked in you find it very difficult to dig yourself out.”
But why do studies suggest that online couples are more likely to stay together?
It could be that those looking for love online are more committed to the prospect of a long-term relationship. Others argue that online dating uses sophisticated algorithms and questionnaires to match people with perfectly suited partners. Or perhaps the sheer volume of choice online allows for more pairings.
“Online dating gives you a much bigger pool of people to choose from and by definition you have a better chance of meeting someone who is more appropriate and would therefore form a longer lasting relationship with you,” says Professor Dunbar.
The downside of that large pool though, says Professor Dunbar, is that Generation Y can see the variety of choice available online and become more dissatisfied in their existing relationship.
So, online dating could help Generation Y walk down the aisle. But it remains to be seen whether millennials will find true and lasting love.
Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10975386/Will-Generation-Y-ever-tie-the-knot.html