Americans increasingly believe marriage is obsolete as census reveals all-time low figures
18th November 2010
39 per cent of those polled in Time magazine study say marriage is obsolete
Almost four in ten American couples now believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a new survey published yesterday.
More than ever before, people in the US are coming to believe that wedding bells aren’t necessary for a happy family.
With US census figures revealing that marriages for adults eighteen and over were at an all-time low of 52 per cent, an increasing number of children are growing up out of wedlock.
The Pew Research Centre poll, carried out with Time magazine, showed that nearly one in three American children are now living with a parent who is divorced, separated or never married.
That’s a five-fold increase from 1960. Broken down further, about 15 per cent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 per cent who were never married.
Within those two groups, a sizable chunk – 6 per cent – have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting hitched.
The 39 per cent of Americans who now think marriage is on the way out is a significant increase from 1978, when just 28 per cent felt that way.
When asked what constitutes a family, the vast majority of Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, fits that description.
But four of five surveyed pointed also to an unmarried, opposite-sex couple with children or a single parent. Three of five people said a same-sex couple with children was a family.
‘Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to,’ said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.
‘Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them.’
The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29, who are more likely than older generations to have an unmarried or divorced parent or have friends who do.
Young adults also tend to have more liberal attitudes when it comes to spousal roles and living together before marriage, the survey found.
But economic factors, too, are playing a role.
The US Census Bureau recently reported that opposite-sex unmarried couples living together jumped 13 per cent this year to 7.5 million.
It was a sharp one-year increase that analysts largely attributed to people unwilling to make long-term marriage commitments in the face of persistent unemployment.
Still, the study indicates that marriage isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
Despite a growing view that marriage may not be necessary, 67 per cent of Americans were upbeat about the future of marriage and family.
And about half of all currently unmarried adults, 46 per cent say they want to get married. Among those unmarried who are living with a partner, the share rises to 64 per cent.