Marriage is still considered to be important in society today, but it doesn't appear to dictate family life as much as it used to in earlier years. Today’s young people seem to be redefining the meaning of marriage, as well as the meaning of family life. The Pew survey seems to suggest that there are increasing numbers of Americans who are of the opinion that the institution of marriage is gradually becoming obsolete.
Purpose of Marriage
In past decades marriage was considered more of an economic and social necessity. In the 1950’s, approximately half of American women were already married in their teens.
Marriage, in previous decades, was also considered a necessary precondition to bearing and rearing children. The institution of marriage was traditionally considered a first and obligatory step toward becoming adults. It was considered a feasible way for a man to take a step toward adulthood and its inherent responsibilities. For women, marriage was considered an investment in their future. People now, however, are discovering that they are able to lead successful lives without the security of marriage. Leading successful and respectable lives outside of the institution of marriage decades ago would have been considered difficult, if not completely impossible.
According to a survey of 2691 Americans conducted by Pew Research, marriage is increasingly being considered as optional. The research shows that 39% of Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete. That figure is a significant and telling increase from the 28% figure of Americans who were given a similar survey in 1978. This seems to register an awareness of a noteworthy social change in today’s society.
Recent census data show a decrease in the percentage of married adults. The percentage was 54% in 2010, 57% in 2000, and 72% in 1960. For college graduates, according to the Pew report, marriage is still the norm. Sixty-four percent of college graduates get married. Only 48% of those without college degrees marry. A mere 32% of blacks are likely to be married. This is in stark contrast to the 56% of whites who are likely to be married.
In addition, Pew research shows that, since 1990, cohabitation has almost doubled. Forty-four percent of adults, with more than half being ages 30 to 49, have lived together outside of the institution of marriage. Among those cohabitating adults, 64% consider it an important initial step toward getting married.
In conclusion, Americans seem to recognize that marriage is no longer essential, but they still genuinely value the institution of marriage.