Consider this a working-thesis, open to critique and suggestions.
I believe the decline of marriage in the west is an important issue to start discussing, as it will become (or should become) a prominent societal issue in the near future. By that I mean that cultural elites, and even leftist groups, will have to discuss the issue.
As pretty much everyone knows, the marriage rate for new marriages is declining. Not only are fewer marrying, but those who are marrying do so later in life. I won’t go into detail here, but from the studies I have seen, over the last generation, the average age of first marriage has increased by at least 5-7 years.
The increase in the age of first marriage is more dramatic in major metropolitan areas. In my experience, and completely anecdotal, I know of fewer than five guys from college who married before reaching 29/30 mark. However, in other states I have lived in, it is common to marry well before the age of 25.
Why Is Marriage Declining?
I cannot pretend to have all of the answers, but I can speculate, especially as to the male perspective. Men are the gatekeepers of marriage, after all.
Men, while absolutely being capable of irrational decision making, tend to be analytical and naturally look at choices through the lens of cost-benefit analysis. The benefit to them must outweigh the costs (or risks).
First, let’s start off with some very basic benefits of marriage:
- 12,600 standard deduction from the IRS, and other benefits from the state re taxes (as opposed to a 9,300 head of household benefit)
- procreation (leaving a legacy and affecting the future)
- stability of relationship (relative stability, minimizing chaos and costs)
- parental visitation rights in case of divorce or separation
The two biggest primary benefits I see are rights created in case of divorce (or death), and tax benefits.
The costs, however, are:
- increase of costs for insurance, medical, etc. (unless both work)
- emotional impact of divorce (you can’t quantify it, but it’s massive)
- limitation of sexual partners.
- Financial impact of divorce: alimony, debt, child support, etc.
IMHO, Marriage is declining because a generation or two of people have applied a cost-benefit analysis in deciding to (not) marry, and determined the costs are too high. Relationships in general have been turned down because the perception of what the costs will be, which would explain the hook up culture.
I don’t believe that the desire to marry is lost, though. Quite frankly, I have the feeling that many MGTOW men desire marriage, but find it to be too risky. It’s not the institution of marriage that they reject, but how state institutions have treated marriage. Even many hound-dogged men I know have settled down or desire to … at some point.
From everything I have read, witnessed, and viewed, the millennial generation and gen z also have an absolute fear of relationships, fear of rejection, fear of losing financial assets, and fear of repeating history. These are the generations that were raised in “divorce culture,” and are the victims of divorced households. Their personal experience leaves them jaded, and affects their cost-benefit analysis.
If I am somewhat correct, our materialistic, consumer-driven culture prioritizes things and assets (objects) to the extent that Hipster Dave fears the loss of his one speed bike to the loss of Carla the do-gooder.
I believe a significant cause of the lack of marriages is the reality and/or perception that the social framework for divorce is flawed and unjust. People enter into relationships “knowing” they won’t last. With marriage, that failure is costly.
Despite the fear so many have, I strongly believe people, at least some, will still willingly enter into relationships that won’t pan out. I could be completely wrong on that though- the hookup culture provides a way to have emotionless sex.
Perhaps we can alleviate fears by instituting reforms.
- Prenups are great if they are done correctly and the state/s you marry in and live in treat them with respect.
- Forming contracts and trusts outside of formal marriage licenses.
- Instituting laws that repeal no-fault divorce, or allow for a “covenant” system, where specific reasons must be listed, and fault being penalized.
I’m happy to hear of any critiques and suggestions as to formal solutions.