With marriages becoming increasingly expensive, more Americans, particularly Blacks, can barely afford them.
Getting married and ensuring the durability of an official partnership requires not only an emotional bond but also financial security as many couples know it from their own experiences.
While the US is the world’s richest country, less Americans feel financially secure to get married, according to recent studies. Many researches have clearly shown that marriage rates in the US have drastically decreased among middle-class and low-income people in the last five decades.
In 1970, unmarried people were rated at 9 percent in the US, but that level rose up to 38 percent in 2019, according to Pew Research Center’s recent analysis. Also other American institutions pointed out that marriage rates dropped to a record low level in 2018.
But it does not mean Americans don’t want to get married. In 2017, when asked about their plans to get married, three-quarters of high-school seniors said yes to the question, according to the survey data of Bowling Green State University.
Despite their intentions to get married, marriage and even having a partnership has increasingly become an expensive enterprise particularly for middle-class Americans, who feel that it could be a risky adventure to get married with relatively medium-level incomes.
Among African-Americans, the poorest racial group in the US, both marriage and partnership have lost their appeal for many as nearly 60 percent Black adults aged between 25 and 54 were found without any partner in 2019 by the Pew research. One fifth of the Black population lives under poverty, according to Statista’s 2020 data.
Among other racial groups, marriage rates are much higher compared to African-Americans as 33 percent of Whites, 38 percent of Hispanics and 29 percent of Asian-Americans appeared to have no partners in 2019.
“Economic conditions, even in the good economy, remain difficult for many working Americans,” to move toward marriage, said Daniel Schneider, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies marriage patterns.
Can you feed a family?
Financial insecurity makes a lot of non-affluent Americans stay away from establishing families. Four decades ago, the American middle class was rated having “the highest proportion of currently-married individuals” between the ages of 33 and 44 with 84 percent, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.
Low-income individuals stood at 60 percent in terms of being married, the same analysis showed.
In 2018, marriage rates between the same ages showed that the situation had significantly changed compared to the 1970s as the middle-class marriage rate dropped to 66 percent and lower class unions declined to 38 percent.
But the marriage rate for the affluent has not changed dramatically, “dropping from 82 percent to 80 percent”, found the American think-tank’s researchers, Richard V Reeves and Christopher Pulliam.
“The middle class, along with the affluent, used to have the highest marriage rates. Now, it is just the affluent,” they wrote, indicating deteriorating finances of the middle and lower classes make a lot of individuals live alone.
The findings almost say that if you can’t feed yourself well enough, it will not be easy for you to find a wife or husband to establish a stable family in the US.
Different studies also show that financial difficulties also lead people to choose to cohabit (unmarried partnership) without an ‘I do’ ceremony.
“About three-in-ten cohabiting adults who are not engaged but say they would like to get married someday say their partner’s (29 percent) or their own (27 percent) lack of financial readiness is a major reason why they’re not engaged or married to their current partner,” said a Pew research released in 2019. Nearly similar portions of cohabiters also find finances a minor reason not to get married.
In total, the study showed that financial unreadiness is the top reason among other factors for cohabiters not to move toward or delay their marriages.
Career or marriage
In modern life, making promising careers has become a leading concern for both sexes, changing people’s life priorities. From ancient times to modern age, marriage has been a top priority for both men and women.
But with the industrial revolution and rapidly changing structures of social life, marriage has increasingly become less of a priority among others under growing financial pressures across the globe.
In the US, where the industrial revolution and modern lifestyles restructured various old social norms, social trends are changing at a much faster pace than expected.
“The meaning of marriage has changed, and marriage is now viewed as this capstone achievement once all of these other milestones have been achieved. It’s almost like a luxury good that’s attainable only by the people who have the highest resources in society.” said Susan L. Brown, chair of sociology at Bowling Green State.
According to data concerning the relationship between marriage and finances, America's poorest remain as the most vulnerable group to move toward making marriages.
But interestingly, marriage rates for Americans with incomes under $25,000 have not changed much since 2005 despite strengthening financial and political globalism, demonstrating money is not everything.