A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that 4 out of 10 Americans think that marriage is obsolete. 42% of conservatives agree that it is obsolete, but they are deeply disturbed by this trend.
In 2008, 52% of Americans were married as compared with 72% in 1960. As to younger Americans, Pew reports:
The survey also finds striking differences by generation. In 1960, two-thirds (68%) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26% were. How many of today’s youth will eventually marry is an open question. For now, the survey finds that the young are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms — such as same sex marriage and interracial marriage — in a positive light.
Spousal roles have changed significantly since 1960, which may account for some of the shifting views about marriage. According to Pew:
In the past 50 years, women have reached near parity with men as a share of the workforce and have begun to outpace men in educational attainment. About six-in-ten wives work today, nearly double the share in 1960. There’s an unresolved tension in the public’s response to these changes. More than six-in-ten (62%) survey respondents endorse the modern marriage in which the husband and wife both work and both take care of the household and children; this is up from 48% in 1977. Even so, the public hasn’t entirely discarded the traditional male breadwinner template for marriage. Some 67% of survey respondents say that in order to be ready for marriage, it’s very important for a man to be able to support his family financially; just 33% say the same about a woman.
Marriage appears to correspond with socio-economic levels. The higher the income and the higher the education, the more likely a couple is to get married.
Although marriage is losing its importance, the concept of family being the most important element in personal lives remains strong. However, what constitutes a family has changed. Single moms, parents co-habitating, and gay parents are considered to be families.