Is marriage a dying institution? Study reveals why fewer people are saying ‘I do’

Sep 07, 2019
Nowadays, many young couples are choosing to wait until far later to tie the knot, with some eschewing the act altogether. Source: Getty.

In decades past, it was the ‘done thing’ for many was to begin courting, become engaged and get married before buying a house to settle down in and start a family at a relatively young age. Nowadays though, things are far different with many young couples choosing to wait until far later to tie the knot, with some eschewing the act altogether.

Now a new study has confirmed that marriage rates are in decline, and researchers at Cornell University in the United States examined data on marriages that took place between 2007-2012 and 2013-2017 to determine whether there were any specific reasons for the drop.

While it would be easy to think that the reduction in the number of nuptials was down to personal preference or changing social trends, the ‘Mismatches in the Marriage Market’ study actually claimed that it can be attributed to the fact that women are facing shortages when it comes to potential male partners.

To reach this conclusion, the scientists collected information from unmarried women about their ideal partners. They then compared the characteristics of these ‘synthetic husbands’ with those possessed by real-life married men.

The authors found that one of the main issues was a lack of “economically-attractive” men. Discussing their results, they said: “These synthetic husbands have an average income that is about 58 per cent higher than the actual unmarried men that are currently available to unmarried women.

“They also are 30 per cent more likely to be employed and 19 per cent more likely to have a college degree.”

The study – which was published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family – also went on to suggest that men nowadays have “little to bring to the marriage table”, making the point that marriage is “fundamentally an economic transaction”.

Lead author Daniel T. Lichter, PhD, of Cornell University added: “Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs.

“Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.”

It was also revealed that racial and ethnic minorities, particularly black women, face serious shortages when it comes to finding potential marital partners. While unmarried white women with either low or high socioeconomic status were also found to be facing the same deficit.

The tendency to marry later in life is one that is becoming increasingly prevalent in modern society, with many young Australians choosing to travel or focus on their careers first, but in July this year Bindi Irwin bucked the trend entirely when she announced her engagement at the age of just 21.

The daughter of Steve Irwin accepted her long-term boyfriend Chandler Powell’s proposal on her 21st birthday, sparking a discussion about what age is ‘right’ to get engaged or married.

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