It isn’t news that we millennials aren’t afraid to forge a different path than the generations that have come before us. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms that millennials are putting their focus on things like education and jobs, and not marriage and children.
Many millennials (for the sake of the report, millennials were individuals between the ages of 18 to 34) are graduating college with mountains and mountains of student loan debt, and then they are unable to acquire jobs that allow them to afford their loan payments and their rent and groceries. When you’re living with that kind of dire circumstances, there is no room for things like marriage and children, even if it is ultimately a part of your life plan.
According to an article in Time regarding the report, which focuses on young adults over the past 40(ish) years (1975 to approximately 2016) 55% of the young adults in the report claim that marriage and children aren’t a priority, a stark comparison to 1975 when 8 in 10 people were married by the age of 30. “What is clear is that today young adults look different from prior generations in almost every regard: how much education they have, their work experiences, when they start a family and even who they live with growing up,” the report states.
My parents always placed an emphasis on education. It wasn’t enough to do what older members of my family had done; many of them didn’t even attend college, or if they did start, they didn’t finish. School always came first, and I worked my butt off, and I graduated high school 10th in my class and finished college with a 3.4 GPA. I’m not humble bragging. I’m making a larger point: Even with a college degree, being able to maintain financial stability has been really difficult since I graduated college in 2008. With the recession hitting its hardest just as I received my diploma, a stable, permanent, well-paying job eluded me.
I was one of the 1 in 3 young Americans who lived with their parents. That’s not just a millennial stereotype; it’s the absolute truth. With the economy in the crapper, the easiest thing for many of us to do was move back home. It was definitely not my initial plan, but I didn’t have to worry about paying rent when I couldn’t find a job, and that was a huge perk. It is way easier to try to save money when your financial output is low. It has been infinitely easier saving money and paying down debts this way, even if it’s not the most ideal situation. One of the highlights of the report is that in 2005, in 35 states “the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household. As of 2015, the number of states dropped to 6.
Pursuing higher education, and the debt that comes along with that, absolutely plays a part in why millennials are delaying marriage. If you get married while you’re neck-deep in student loan debt then you are hard-pressed to buy a reliable car or a house, or afford any of the other expenditures that come with a shared life. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to be successful in college, especially if you are working for a paycheck on top of that. And you’re probably not going to plan on adding a kid into the mix until things calm down. (Obviously, we can’t plan all things, and these things have a way of surprising us beyond our best-laid plans.)
It’s no wonder that people are getting married later. While 8 in 10 adults in 1970 were married by 30, the statistic has now changed drastically — 8 in 10 adults will now be married by 45 instead.
Some women are choosing to remain childless for various reasons, while many are pushing back the time they have them in favor of a pursuit of higher education — “In 2013, 41% of young families had student debt, up from 17 percent in 1989.” The report states that only 14% of millennial women (ages 25–34) are homemakers, as opposed to the 43% in 1975. Millennials are probably one of the last generations where stay-at-home moms were common; now moms often have to work outside of the home, whether it is because they are single parents or because it is financially impossible to subsist on one income. Or hey, because they worked their ass off for that degree, or worked their way up in their company, and they want to freaking work outside of the home because they can and it makes them happy.
Really, millennials are a product of the generations that came before. As the previous generations passed down their version of the American Dream and ideals for what adulthood looks like, the generation that comes after them tweaks that narrative to fit the current times. Eventually, some of us do catch up to our parents’ generation, but we have to do things in a our time. We’re just preparing ourselves to take over the world sooner rather than later.