Is the economy driving a decline in marriage?


I’ll assume that most have seen the recent articles about the increasing portion of never married adults. But, deeper in the study I found this:

Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34, the number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012, despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers. In other words, if all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail, simply because there are not enough men in the target group. Five decades ago, never-married young women had a much larger pool of potential spouses from which to choose.

Since many women make a stable job a requirement for marriage, does this mean that this prolonged economic downturn is leading to lower marriage rates? Are we reaching the point where men no longer “compete” for women, but vice versa?


Dovetailing on this comment prompts me to ask, how many women, who are in larger and larger numbers working full-time salaried jobs, don’t find the “need” to get married for stability purposes?


Well, a lot of people of both genders have premarital sex, often don’t feel they need to marry, at least not in order to get intimacy. Also, some believe that they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have the sexual intimacy with no “strings”.

Women can be intimate with them, wondering why they never commit, but they often feel they don’t have to, don’t want to. They like it like that, having the freedom to go if they are unhappy, not being bound by marriage.

A lot of people, guys especially, seem very immature, seem to want to live sort of an indefinite childhood, not really grow up and take certain responsibilities, sometimes ever.

A lot of people, especially men, but now more and more women, don’t want commitment.

Some people, I think women especially, have gotten really hurt in relationships, don’t want to ever commit due to that, not wanting to get hurt again.

There are also a lot of gay guys out there. I don’t know what the statistics are on this, but I have known different gay/bisexual people, and that also plays into the statistics. They are becoming a more significant factor as time goes on.

I’ve known different ladies who have also come from families where their parents are divorced. Some say they saw what their parents went through and don’t want anything to do with marriage.

Not in the statistics, but here in Mexico, many of both sexes, often like to live with their parents, guys especially. Some here seem to prefer living with their mothers over getting married and living with a spouse. They might have a girlfriend that gives them the intimacy they crave, a mother who pampers them, and some say that so many people they know now are divorced, so why bother even getting married?


Well, fewer people “need” to marry and that’s a good thing. If the divorce stats show anything it is that couples from eras when marriage was expected are driving divorce rates. As it is, we are going through a wave of 50+ people splitting after decades together.

The percent who don’t want to marry or aren’t sure is close to 50% of unmarried. It’s buried in there but I’m not going to check right now.


Since the majority of unmarried women say that a stable job is the main thing they are looking for in a mate, I think they are still looking for that stability. Unfortunately, the dismal economy means that there are fewer men who can offer it. Staggering educational loans also influence the decision to delay marriage and beginning a family.


Supply and demand. There are more available women than available men right now. Men have the advantage so to speak.


There is also that.


I have heard that the economy is driving a decline in marriage rates. I am not sure how true that it is but I wouldn’t doubt it if it were true. If people are too poor to get married or have children then they are likely to put off a marriage for later. Unfortunately there are still far too many children born out of wedlock and while they are children of God just as much as those of us born within marriage, they ought to be born within a marriage between a man and a woman as that is how God designed it.



You have a point. I don’t know how it works in Mexico but the feeling among many of my male peers is that marriage is too risky and not worth it. And sadly they are right. With a 40% chance of failure and the man at risk of losing 75% of his stuff (50% + 25% in court cost, selling assets at bad times, etc) it is the riskiest thing I have ever done in my entire life. But somehow it was okay when I considered getting married to my wife.

To some extent I think that the lack of marriage minded “eligible” men drives what you mentioned because then the women are pressured to cater to men’s desires or face a much smaller pool of men even willing to do anything close to dating.


That is very true. I know several women who work in IT who never felt the need to get married even once they had a child. Marriage did not represent stability to them, but rather just one more person demanding their time.

The increased number of women and older adults (55+) in the workforce today compared to 50 years ago also likely contribute the fewer number of employed males in the original statistics. Comparing the percentages from 1960 to 2012 there are 3 times as many women in the workforce today and twice as many older adults. When the pool of workers jumps in a category then it is not suprising that they displace some number of workers in another category.


Yes, the pickings can be quite slim, and moreso if one is trying to be at all selective. I think women can want to be in a relationship, especially one that leads to marriage, so badly that they might try to do things to please a man they might normally do out of sheer desperation.


There are a lot of people who are not married by a certain age who also may have some kind of problem…alcohol, drugs, womanizing, immaturity and irresponsibility, whatever, that people wouldn’t want to marry that person, considering that person a non-option.


Here in Mexico, the problem of enough available quality men is just so bad that many men here expect the woman to maintain them, pay for the man in dates, pay for the rent and his expenses. Some women do that, because they believe it’s the only way to be in a relationship.

Some women refuse, end up alone but would rather do that than end up in a relationship like the above-mentioned one.


Well, it’s certainly giving people an excuse they need to live a me-first, selfish lifestyle in many cases.


Do you have data that older people are divorcing at the rate of younger? In my anecdotal observation, grandma and grandpa were much more successful at lasting marriages than today’s “kids.”


The divorce rate among boomers has jumped recently and that number is only expected to climb. Statistics from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University show that despite the overall divorce rate in the U.S. dropping over the last 20 years, the divorce rate among people age 50 and over has doubled.

When I ran into this while discerning marriage I too was surprised. I suspect these couples held it together for their children who have since grown up but it’ll probably take years before studies can come up with good theories.

Addition: I should have specified that I was referring to the baby boomer generation.


Thank you, although this only shows that there is an increase in boomer divorce, not whether or not they equal the divorce rates of other generations. I do see you clarified that.

I did find this table showing divorce rates. As you can see, in the 1800s, divorce rates were as low as 3%. Some might argue it was more difficult to divorce back then, but based on some study, it would also seem that marriage was considered permanent then.

You will also notice a spike in divorce rates in the early 1970s. This was right after Woodstock and around Roe v. Wade and only about decade after the pill hit the mass markets. I think one must at least recognize the cultural winds of those years as one that fostered sexual “freedom” that would, by its nature, be opposed to a permanent commitment.


Here’s an article from MainStreet from today that claims economic reasons are driving a decline in Gen Y marriages. I still question this stat as the ultimate reason, however, partly because of all the single 30-something men I know who have good jobs, and because of the phenomenon described in previous posts above.


In part the “capstone” model of getting things together before marriage makes a stable job a big deal. But there are other things too (debts, living arrangements, getting life in order, etc). I personally didn’t feel stable enough to seriously consider marriage until 3 years ago when I got truly settled into my career.
Also, there is something incredibly broken about the dating process and male-female communications.

As for my previous aversion to marriage it was more a combination of reasons, not an “ultimate reason”. It can be summed up as “I’m wasnt ready” and “the risks isn’t worth it”. Poor job prospects contributes to the former and witnessing the fallout amount my peers with broken homes falls in the latter.

Culturally, young adults have increasingly come to see marriage as a “capstone” rather than a “cornerstone” – that is, something they do after they have all their other ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit