More than Half of Gen Y Says Marriage is Not Necessary

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Americans are seeing marriage as being less important these days. Young adults are particularly unwilling to wed: more than half of Millennials (54%) say marriage is unnecessary. And this is not a conviction held in the abstract -- by age 25, 44% of women have given birth, while only 38% have married. In fact, nearly half (48%) of all first births are now outside of marriage. Data compiled by a new Harris poll and a recent study by the National Marriage Project point to a rapidly changing view of American family life.

While seven in ten U.S. adults (71%) say marriage is still important to Americans in general, a nearly equal number (72%) say that, when compared to previous generations, the idea of marriage today is less important than before. Of those who do decide to tie the knot, the average age for getting married has reached historic highs: 26.5 for women and 28.7 for men.

"The biggest downside to delayed marriage in America is that many young adults are now putting the baby carriage before marriage," said National Marriage Project director Bradford Wilcox in a recent statement issued with the report. "What they often don't realize is that children born outside of marriage are significantly more likely to be exposed to a revolving cast of caretakers and the social, emotional and financial fallout associated with family instability and single parenthood."

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) agree that children need to be brought up in a family where the parents are married, with one-third strongly agreeing (34%) and one-third somewhat agreeing (33%), according to the Harris Poll.

"The vast majority of unmarried 20-somethings say it's very important to avoid pregnancy right now, but a third also say they would be at least a little happy if they did get pregnant," said Kelleen Kaye, senior director of research at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "It's not surprising then, that among unmarried 20-somethings, more than 1.3 million pregnancies each year are unplanned, as reported by the women themselves."

The Harris poll of 2,266 adults reports that across all demographics, two in five U.S. adults (39%) agree that marriage is not necessary. There is a bit of a gender gap in the response, though – 43% of men agree, compared to 36% of women. However, over half of Americans (57%) agree that couples should live together before getting married.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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