Millennials aren’t exactly lining up to tie the knot, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
Researchers asked people of every generation whether they believe society is better off if people prioritize marriage and children. Of all the participants combined, 46 percent said society would be better off, while 50 percent thought society will do just as well if people have priorities other than marriage and babymaking (the remaining participants were either undecided or refused to respond). But what is especially notable here is that among 18- to 29-year-olds, only 29 percent said society would be better off with marriage and kids at the forefront.
The question researchers asked is pretty loaded, which likely accounts for such a low percentage of millennials responding in favor of marriage. The poll didn’t ask whether the participants themselves want to get married, or even really whether they think marriage is necessarily a good thing for the individual — just for society as a whole. What does “better off” even mean anyway? More than anything, I think this poll should be considered a study in interpretation and what kind of insinuations people derive from murky questions like this one.
Some participants may take the question to be about prioritizing marriage above all other endeavors, like career advancement, which may prompt them to reject the idea that society would be better off. They may also consider marriage to be a “someday” priority, but something they couldn’t fathom in the present, and would project those feelings onto their poll response.
I don’t think any of this is cause for people worried about “preserving marriage” to get their panties in a bunch. Lots of young people are very disheartened by marriage, maybe even more than ever, but there will always be folks who can’t wait to have a little nuclear family of their own. At least anecdotally, I know plenty of millennials who want marriage and babies, and I’m guessing that you do, too. I also know a whole lot of young people who would rather focus on other stuff.
I’d have to think society would still be alright if people prioritized things beyond marriage and kids, because shouldn’t only the people who truly want those things be the ones focusing on that? People who genuinely want to have a family are more likely to give it everything they have, be awesome parents, and raise thoughtful, decent humans who will then contribute to the very society we’re seemingly so worried about. People who’d rather prioritize something else, like a career or other goal, are likely to find fulfillment in creating lives that are right for them, and in turn bring that sense of happiness back into everything they do, which makes the world a better place too. Basically, it all comes down to live and let live (and take polls with a grain of salt).
[Image of a woman with a cat via Shutterstock]