No marriage please, I’m educated

Weddings delayed for young people not because of recession but because they are in school

There is an increasing number of young people delaying marriage, and Time magazine wants you to believe it’s because of the recession. In reality, they are neglecting the steady increase in female enrolment in post-secondary education over the past 40 years and its implications on the gender norms we’re used to seeing.

They cite a stat from the Wall Street Journal:

“In many big cities, never-married young adults are a strong majority among their peers. In San Francisco, 82% of adults between 25 and 34 had never been married in 2009, the largest share among big U.S. cities. Atlanta, New York and Minneapolis were all among the top 20 U.S. cities with the largest share of never-married young adults, with shares greater than 75%.”

And Canada is experiencing a similar trend.

Instances of marriage among people aged 25-34 have been on a steady decline since 1970, while the average age of first-time marriage rose to 30.2 years for grooms and 28.2 years for brides in 2003.

Conversely, the number of women enrolling in universities and colleges has been on a steady increase during that same time frame. By 1988, female post-secondary enrolment in Canada had eclipsed that of their male classmates, and the divide has only grown since.

So it would seem this so-called dramatic dip in marriage rates isn’t much of a dip at all nor does it have anything to do with fiscally responsible thinking in a time of turmoil and uncertainty. It’s part of a growing trend of women gaining independence and taking control of their lives, furthering their own ambitions and avoiding the traditional barefoot-and-pregnant image.

Another line of thinking believes that the marriage decline is due to Generation Y’s laziness, claiming that young people are moving back in with their parents and not doing anything with their lives. For some, marriage is seen as a big contribution to improving society and youth delaying such an important act is seen as selfish.

In reality, delaying marriage in exchange for school seems like the most selfless thing a young person could do for society. Indeed, Philip Oreopoulos, a University of Toronto researcher told the Toronto Star in 2007 that this “shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing – especially if the return (on) this investment is substantial. There is evidence that a more educated society helps foster economic growth, reduce crime and promote citizenship.”

To all those shaking their heads at all the young, lazy unmarried youth, I say buck up. A more educated and equitable society — the kind we’ve been building for 40 years — is more valuable for everyone.