The percentage of single adults reached a new record high in 2016, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau. But social scientists say the precipitous decline in marriage rates over the last four decades has resulted in negative consequences for individuals, families, and communities alike.
Only 59 percent of men and 69 percent of women under 35 years old have ever married. In 1976, 88 percent of men and 95 percent of women had married before turning 35 years old.
Young adults aren’t forgoing romantic relationships entirely, however. The number of young adults cohabitating with their boyfriends or girlfriends has increased by more than 1,200 percent during the same period.
Social scientists have found that individuals who delay marriage or cohabitate miss out on numerous benefits that follow from tying the knot. Marriage causes men to become more productive, increasing their success at work and improving their financial well-being. Their wives are more likely to have a fulfilling sex life and are less likely to become victims of sexual assault. Married men and women are emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthier than their unmarried peers.
Children also benefit from growing up in a household where both parents are married. Such children are statistically less likely to have behavioral problems, experience poverty, or suffer abuse. They are also more likely to do better in school and have healthy families of their own when they grow up.
The trends outlined in the Census Bureau report are concerning. Healthy communities are the product of healthy marriages, and healthy marriages promote individual contentment and fulfillment. Therefore, we must always work to ensure that we encourage marriage, thereby strengthening individuals, families, and communities.
This article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.