By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
U.S. marriage rates have been declining since the 1970s and have been sitting at a historic low for the past few years. Birth rates are also reduced, hitting a record low in 2020. Many students have said they do want to get married and have kids at some point, but there are factors they must take into account they feel previous generations did not have to face.
Some of the factors believed to have caused this shift include an increase in education, economic independence and gender equality for women, which some experts say was sparked by the counterculture movement of the late 1960s. Other factors that have been prevalent in the 21st century include declining religious beliefs of adherence to marriage, lack of financial instability and a shift in attitude toward marriage and childbearing. In 2006, half of U.S. adults said it was important to marry and have children together, compared to 29% in 2020.
Grand Junction, Colo., junior Luke Aubert said one of his biggest life goals is to be a dad and have a family, but he wants to wait until he is at least 30 due to his desire to become financially stable before starting a family.
“I want to graduate from college and have an established job or career, at least get started in that field before I have kids, just because I feel like that’s a lot to take on,” Aubert said. “As soon as you graduate, you’re still pretty young. You’re trying to figure out a lot of things. The thought of getting ready to be married and/or even have kids seems kind of scary. I think it’s much harder now to get established than it was in the 80s and 90s.”
Average ages of marriage have increased as well. In the 1950s, the average age was 20 for women and 23 for men. Now, it’s 27 for women and 29 for men.
At Baylor and other Christian universities across the nation, “ring by spring” is a common phenomenon, and many students across the nation said they have felt pressure to get married by the time they leave college due to the “ring by spring” culture. Many students have also said they have felt pressure from their parents and family to get married and settle down.
Aubert also said he has felt pressure from his parents to marry and have kids as soon as possible.
New Orleans junior Joliesa Monk said she does want to get married at some point, but if she did have kids, they would likely come from adoption. She also said she has felt pressure from her family to have kids and conform to traditional ideas about marriage and having children.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the internet about stuff that’s happened to women during labor and the whole pregnancy process, and I don’t want to deal with that,” Monk said.
Houston sophomore John Young said he does worry about his finances, but he is a big believer in marriage and wants to get married soon after college. He also said he believes marriage and having children are gifts.
“Marriage is a gift that we’re meant to enjoy, and I think it’s a good way of finding a best friend and going through life with them,” Young said. “The Bible says kids are a blessing and children are a gift from God, so I think that’s why I would want to have kids.”
Monk said she believes changing beliefs about marriage are a good thing because they symbolize the current generation taking more agency and making their own decisions.
“In the past generation, [the standard] was get married, have two kids, a dog and a white picket fence house,” Monk said. “Now, we can’t have that because we can barely afford rent sometimes. Everything’s changing, and we’re not just saying, ‘OK, well, the old generation is how it should be.’ We’re going to do things how we want to do it to also just still be happy.”