Is marriage an outdated institution?
At 6.5 marriages per thousand people, the US marriage rate is currently the lowest it's been since 1867, the earliest year that national marriage data became available. Culture has clearly changed. Living together and family formation outside of marriage has become commonplace across the social and economic spectrum. The social disapproval and legal penalties that once accompanied such behaviors have faded, leaving far fewer negative consequences that made people more inclined to marry in the past.
Many of the primary protections offered by marriage are available outside of the institution. Child support laws apply whether the parents are married or not. Alternative cohabitation arrangements, such as civil unions, domestic partnerships, and simply just living together, have led to the use of civil contracts and other legal documents to delineate and preserve a couple's property, medical, and other rights.
In civil law (the secular sense of the word), marriage has become an outdated institution because its benefits and protections are now readily available outside of the institution. This social trend isn't likely to change any time soon as it's been readily adopted by younger generations. Young adult couples are more likely to live together than marry. According to Census data, in 2018, 7.3 percent of couples between 18 and 24 years of age were married, and 9.4 percent lived together without being married.
A 2019 survey revealed 53% of American adults are married, whereas only 7% live with an unmarried partner; three in ten non-engaged cohabiters believe they will get married once financially ready. This is because marriage strengthens relationships. Spouses trust their partners to be faithful to them, act in their best interest, be truthful, and handle money responsibly. Other benefits married couples enjoy include tax benefits and increased intimacy.
Marriage also offers couples more security. By law, married couples are entitled to social security, Individual Retirement Account (IRA), legal decision-making, health insurance, and inheritance benefits, just to name a few. These benefits, rights, and privileges ensure that one-half of the couple and any children they share are always taken care of. Other types of relationships, however, aren't as protected. Due to the lack of laws, couples may face difficulties while fighting for simple rights such as claiming their share of a partner's property or filing for child support during a split.
In addition to the US legal system, society is more accepting of married couples. Approximately 53% of Americans believe society benefits when couples who wish to stay together long-term get married. On the other hand, 48% of adults believe having unmarried couples raising children is bad for society — especially since children of cohabiters are more than four times likely to be victims of abuse. For couples, with the law and society backing it, marriage will continue going strong as it remains a sacred institution in which people participate and believe.
- ”Marriage” is defined as “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman).”
- Historically, the function of marriage was meant for strategic alliance, child rearing, and economic power, not love.
- Marriage comes in many forms. Monogamy is the most common, but polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage are also recognized.
- In the landmark 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, making gay marriage legal throughout America.
- The CDC reports the median age at first marriage is about 30 for men and 28 for women, and that between 1978 and 2018, the share of adults between 18 and 34 who were married plummeted from 59% to 29%. A record share of younger people are expected to never marry at all.
- Worldwide, 4.3 percent of women get to their late forties without ever marrying.
- The number of Americans living with an unmarried partner reached about 18 million in 2016, up 29% since 2007. Roughly half of cohabiters are younger than 35 – but cohabitation is rising most quickly among Americans ages 50 and older.