In 2019, only 30% of Millennials (ages 23 to 38) lived with a spouse and child, compared to 40% of Generation X and 70% of the Silent Generation at the same age. A recent Pew analysis highlights how Millennials are taking their own path to starting (or not starting) families, with most remaining unmarried or marrying later in life. (Pew Research Center)
NH: While there are no new data revealed in this report, the Pew authors do an excellent job re-tabulating the numbers going back to 1968 so that we get clear set of same-age generational comparisons.
Millennials in 2019, Xers in 2003, Boomers in 1987, and Silent in 1968: We get to look at each generation at exactly age 23 to 38 and measure them against each other.
The first striking contrast is how few Millennials live with a family of their own--meaning with a spouse or with their own child or with both. Only 55% do. That's down from close to 70% for Boomers and Xers and 85% for the Silent.
How about a spouse and a child? That's where we get 30% for Millennials versus 70% for the Silent. Note, however, that Millennials are not more likely to live alone (9%) than Boomers or Xers. So what are Millennials doing instead?
A lot more of them are living with their parents, with other family members (often grandparents), and with other nonrelated adults (that includes cohabiting).
As nearly everyone knows, Millennials are a lot less likely to be married--and when they do marry, they do so at an older age.
Today 44% of Millennials are married. Compare that to 61% of Boomers or 81% of Silent. Some of this shift can be explained by cohabiting rather than marrying--but even cohabiting begs the question of why more Millennials are avoiding binding relationships. (See "Waiting to Take the Plunge.")
We've written often about the possible drivers behind this trend, especially to role of affordability (see "Are Finances Keeping Millennials from Marrying?") and the emerging "capstone" view of marriage (see "Marriage is Now the Capstone of Adult Life," "Marriage and Kids Not a Millennial Priority," and "Millennial Postponers").
Both explanations are consistent with another clear trend: Marriage rates among young adults with four-year college degrees have fallen much less than marriage rates among young adult with less education. For Millennials, the college marriage rate (50%) is now 12 percentage points higher than the high school marriage rate (38%).
There are also notable differences by race. The marriage rate for young blacks, which began falling faster than whites with the Boom Generation, is now barely half (24%) of what it is for whites (48%), Asians (51%), and Hispanics (42%). Meanwhile, interracial marriage has become much more common among Millennials than among any earlier generation. For example, the rate of intermarriage among black Millennials (18%) is nearly twice as high as it was for black Gen Xers (10%) at the same age.
Yet while Millennials are marrying more across racial lines, they are marrying less across educational lines.
As the correlation between earnings and education rises, a greater share of Millennials are getting four-year college degrees.
At the same time, the share of women with college degrees has caught up with--and has now surpassed--the share of Millennial men with college degrees. That means that fewer Millennials need to marry outside their "educational class." What's more, the new gender inversion in educational attainment is putting an additional damper on marriage. Women have always been averse to "marrying down" educationally.
Today, however, an increasing number have no choice--except, that is, not to marry at all. (See "Millennial Women Just Can't Find Enough Good Men.")
The numbers here are striking. Of all college-educated Silent Generation men, only 40% married a college-educated woman. Of all collegiate Millennial men, that share has risen to 82%.
Today, for the first time, collegiate young women are less likely to find a similarly educated spouse.
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ABOUT NEIL HOWE
Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.
A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.
Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."
Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.
Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.
Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.