Delaying Marriage and Parenthood: The Consequences of ‘Emerging Adulthood’

Arguably the most consequential cultural shift of the past 50 years that too many people are unaware of is the rise of what demographers call “median age at first marriage.”

Two simple numbers, one for men and the other for women, tell a great deal about where marriage and family rank among our culture’s priorities.

Growing Up, Then and Now

In 1950, the median ages for first marriages were 22.8 years old for men and 20.3 years old for women. As late as 1970, the median ages were 23.2 for men and 20.8 for women. And then those ages started rising, and they’re still going up. The figures as of 2013: 29 and 27, respectively.

What’s going on here? What does it mean? Those questions are raised in an important new study by the Census Bureau.

The study, entitled “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016,” opens with a sobering conclusion: “What was once ubiquitous [for younger Americans’] during their 20s is now not commonplace until their 30s. Some demographers believe the delays represent a new period of the life course between childhood and adulthood, a period of ‘emerging adulthood.’” (For more from the author of “Delaying Marriage and Parenthood: The Consequences of ‘Emerging Adulthood'” please click HERE)

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