Just ten years ago, 55% of 25-34 year old Americans were married, by 2009 that number had dropped to 46%, according to data just released by the Population Reference Bureau, and based on the Census Department's American Community Survey.
Living in the Washington, DC area, I feel this every week, especially when I get a break from my marriage to go out with single friends, and see other people my age (which is above 34) hanging out at bars, making grand plans for the weekend that don't involve mowing the lawn or baseball practice. (And yes, my kid plays baseball, no American child should be playing that silly English sport with a black-spotted ball)
While the trend is not surprising, the rate of change is, essentially dropping a percentage point a year. Now, before any economic development exec or urban planner thinks this means their city needs more douchebag bars or four-letter loft neighborhoods to accommodate overeducated workers, here's an interesting excerpt:
Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of young adults who are married dropped 10 percentage points (to 44 percent) for those with a high school diploma or less. For those with at least a bachelor's degree, the percent married dropped only 4 percentage points, to 52 percent.
...and many of the cities earning high praise from pundits who think we still have a 1990s creativity-based economy aren't following the trend, the report notes that:
Seattle was the only large city where the proportion of young adults who are married increased slightly since 2000.
The article goes on to point out that there's been a flip - high school grads with no college used to more likely to get married, now the opposite is happening. And here's my favorite line:
Another factor contributing to the decline in marriage rates, especially for less educated groups, is the rise in women's earnings relative to men.
This is kind of what I've been talking about with face-to-face contact now the defining scarce resource of the economy. The jobs that aren't getting automated or outsourced, and showing the best growth prospects - from skin care technicians to social workers to nurses - are mostly done by women and don't have exceptionally high educational requirements.
Ultimately, we are adjusting to a new world where most middle-class workers, from teachers to nurses, are women, while men are pushed to the top or bottom by productivity gains. The decline of marriage rates is just one implication of this trend. I'm sure some of you have spotted others.