Over the past few decades, sociologists and economists have observed a steady decline in the trend of people opting to tie the knot. This decreasing trend is not limited to any one country, rather all over the world, irrespective of the socio-economic status of the country, more and more people are deciding not to get married. Throughout history, there has been a fluctuation in this trend with a steep decline during Great Depression and a sharp increase after World War II. In the 1980s the marriage trend was at its peak in the United States with 2.5 million marriages documented each year. However, since then a steady decline has resulted in a reduction of half a million weddings each year, bringing the total to 2 million per annum. The United Nations data reveal similar trends all over the world for almost 100 countries. The data shows a decline from 9 out of every thousand persons getting married to 7 out of every thousand in the U.S., for Australia it declined to 5.6 from 9.3, for Poland it was 6.5 from 8.6, and for Cuba, the number declined from 13.4 to 5 people per thousand. Since this inclination could result in impacting the future societal structure, numerous studies have been conducted to analyze its cause. There are numerous reasons for the shift in this trend and the frequency of people adopting it is on the rise; however, the magnitude of its impact in altering the future societal structure will only be revealed over time.
An inequality of male wage rates along with student loans and debts is considered to negatively impact the marriage trend. The unequal wages cause dispersion of more eligible males and lead to a delay in women searching for their desired match. This inequality also might result in increased investment from women in their education and career, causing a further postponement of nuptials due to a payment of outstanding debts. Alternatively, higher qualifications and improved employment opportunities for women are associated with delayed marriage. This is because women become financially independent and rely more on personal skills, therefore, becoming pickier about whom to marry. In such situations, individuals particularly women prefer to shift into a situation of cohabitation rather than getting married. The general notion is that although it is difficult to afford single life; it is impossible to meet ends in marital life. Therefore, living together presents an alternate, if not an ideal, situation.
One aspect of this trend is related to the religious disposition of people. With a 64% decline in Catholic marriages since 1969, many reasons have been put forth. Some people consider this decline to be a reflection of a general societal trend, however, even in comparison to the world trends, the decline in Catholic marriages is quite steep. It is believed that the younger generation of Catholics has a lower level of allegiance toward the institute, which often leads them to cohabit before marriage, leading to a reluctance to present themselves to prepare for Catholic marriage; for which separate living is part of the preparation. Moreover, a couple’s desire to get married in a non-traditional setting i.e., other than the church also leads to the marriage being labeled as invalid as the Catholic law states that marriage must be conducted by a priest within a church. The religious inclination is essential to shaping people’s beliefs about marriage and with secularism on the rise, more people are giving up marriage.
With the rise of post-materialism culture in most countries, the general opinion of the public has shifted considerably from traditional marriage and childbearing practices. Unlike the women of the old eras, females today are secular entities with better education and employment and have a different worldview than the previously considered traditional role. In more recent times, with the spread of the pandemic, a steep decline in marriages is observed with its leading indicators are steadily in line with the pre-pandemic trends.
The decline in marriage trend has been attributed to various reasons and it is a continuous drift, despite government interventions in the form of public policies, incentives, and laws being passed to widen the horizon of marriage culture by giving allowance to same-sex marriages (Zagorsky, 2016). Yet the society is shifting towards this new structure where the traditionally practiced norms are becoming outdated; opening up possibilities of societies quite different than the past. In time, we shall discover how this new norm would shape the future world along with its economic and social implications.