Millennials Increasingly Shun Marital Bliss

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More women will get married later and the number of women who remain unmarried will increase according to a new statistical investigation into the marriage patterns of millennials by Olin College professor Allen Downey

Olin College

The thing that is surprising to me is the size of the effect.

More women will get married later and the number of women who remain unmarried will increase according to a new statistical investigation into the marriage patterns of millennials by Olin College professor Allen Downey. The analysis was unveiled at the SciPy conference in Austin, Texas.

The data shows that millennials are already marrying much later than previous generations, but now they are on pace to remain unmarried in substantially larger numbers than prior generations of women.

“The thing that is surprising to me is the size of the effect,” said Downey.

Downey, a data scientist, set out to analyze marriage patterns for women born in the 1980s and 1990s using information from the National Survey of Family Growth compiled by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

  • Women born in the early 90s = 13 percent were married at age 22
  • Women born in the 80s = 23 percent were married at age 22
  • Women born in the 40s = 69 percent were married at age 22

“Going from 69 percent to 13 percent in 50 years is a huge magnitude of change,” said Downey.

He then used a statistical survival analysis to project what percentage of women will marry later in life – or at all. (Downey only included women in the analysis because the CDC numbers are more comprehensive for women)

Of women born in the 1980s, Downey’s statistical survival projections show 72 percent are likely to marry by age 42, down from 82 percent of women born in the 1970s who were married by that age. For women born in the 1990s, the projection shows that only 68 percent are likely to marry by age 42. Contrast these figures with the fact that 92 percent of women born in the 1940s were married by age 42.

“These are projections, they are based on current trends and then seeing what would happen if the current trends continue…but at this point women born in the 80s and 90s are so far behind in marriage terms they would have to start getting married at much higher rates than previous generations in order to catch up,” said Downey.

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Anne-Marie Dorning
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