An article that was posted Sunday from CNNMoney reads, “When it comes to marriage, Millennials are saying ‘I don’t.’” The entire article, sans graphics, can be summarized in the first paragraph:
Today’s young adults are on track have the lowest rates of marriage by age 40 compared to any previous generation. If the current pace continues, more than 30% of Millennial women will remain unmarried by age 40, nearly twice the share of their Gen X counterparts, according to a recent Urban Institute report.
The article is available here: http://money.cnn.com/2014/07/20/news/economy/millennials-marriage/index.html
I rode the bus yesterday with a Millennial who was talking loudly on her cell phone, waving her arms as she spoke, complaining to the other end of the phone (and a bus full of annoyed people) about how she could not meet that special someone, but was thankful that her older sibling remained unmarried so some of the family pressure was alleviated. Suffice it to say, it was no great mystery to anyone on the bus (except her) why she was having trouble meeting that special someone. But I do not think lack of self-awareness is the only explanation for reduced marriage among Millennials.
I proffer that the reduction in marriage rates is just one aspect of Millennials making individual choices about families and partnerships instead of taking or leaving marriage and family as a package as prior generations were more inclined to do. Millennials are redefining cohabitation, financial arrangements, and co-parenting as part of, or separate from, the legal status of marriage. This buffet-style partnership is attractive, and possible through the increasing scope of co-habitation agreements, premarital agreements, and postmarital agreements.
On the buffet of partnerships, there are many choices. For some families sharing finances is a must; for others, sharing finances is off the table. For some families co-habitation is a must; for others, co-habitation is not possible. Some families want children; some do not. Some families want the legal status of marriage, others eschew it.
What we know as family law practitioners is that with very few exceptions, people can contract for the things they need in partnerships and leave the things they do not need in partnerships. What this article shows is that Millenials seem to desire or need the legal status of marriage less than prior generations.