One of the most distinguishing characteristics of younger generations is that many of them are waiting longer for major life milestones than the generations that came before. The average life expectancy of a child born in 1950 was 68 years. The average life expectancy of a child born today is closer to 80. Keep in mind these are averages. A recent study concluded that, based on current trajectories, more than half of all babies born in industrialized nations since the year 2000 can expect to live into the triple digits. Whether consciously or subconsciously, members of younger generations seem to know they have a good shot at making it to 100.
Today, life unfolds with more time to go to school, take time off to travel, start a career, go back to school, and retire much later than previous generations. It’s not surprising then that attitudes about marriage and raising families are markedly different than those of their parents.
Fewer Young Marriages
Members of younger generations who do choose to get married are waiting longer to tie-the-knot than ever before. A recent report published by the US Department of Commerce found that in the 1970s, eight of every ten people were married by the age of 30. Today, it’s not until age 45 that eight out of ten people are married. That’s not to say younger generations are marriage-averse. It’s just that they can afford to take a bit longer before having to make the formal commitment.
Education and Career Come First
Members of younger generations are shunning marriage and children in favor of education and a career, a stark contrast to the generation before them. The same study cited above indicated most young-adult Americans believe “educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood”. It also found the number of women 25-34 staying at home to be “homemakers” declined by over 300 percent during the past 40 years. Finally, the study concluded that “today’s 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 while growing up.”
Advances in Reproductive Health
Due to advances in fertility treatments and pre-natal care, along with adoption agencies focusing more on pairing unexpected pregnancies with new mothers, women might not be hearing the ticking of their biological clocks to the same extent their mothers did.
Age 35 has long been the tipping point where the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy child starts to decrease. While the biological clock is a fact of life, there’s nothing magical about age 35. According to the Mayo clinic, it’s simply an age at which various risks become more discussion worthy. Many women are delaying pregnancy well into their 30s and beyond, and still delivering healthy babies.
Members of younger generations don’t seem to feel a need to rush into marriage and child-rearing. They want to make sure they’re ready, financially and experientially, to make those kinds of commitments. Given the incidence of divorce in their parents’ generation, and the fact that they often felt the brunt of the anguish associated with dissolving a marriage, they think they can afford to wait a little longer, and who can blame them.