According to Fox News, the percent of married households in the United States fell to 48.4 percent in 2010, down from 55.2 percent in 1990 and 78 percent in 1960. This is the lowest in recorded history for our country. In 1960, according to the LA Times, almost 50 percent of the 18-24 year olds and 82 percent of 25-34 year olds were married. Today, it is 9 percent of the 18-24 group and 44 percent of the 25-34 group.
Today, the average age of a first marriage is almost 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 and 22 in 1960. It also looks like 15 percent of the population today will remain unmarried compared with the historic norm in the U.S. of 10 percent. Add on top of that, where close to 40 percent of births are now to unmarried women, and our country looks much different than it did just 50 years ago.
When you augment in that new marriage in the U.S. declined by 5 percent just from one year to the next, this lack of commitment is having a major economic impact on our economy. Now, a decline in marriage is not the reason we have been suffering through this recession, but fewer marriages and the recession is not a coincidence.
The Huffington Post reported that University of Virginia researchers found when people get married and have children, several sectors of the economy experience growth. They include child care, life and personal insurance, household products and services, health care, food, home maintenance and home services, pets and toys. A strong economy depends on a strong family unit because they not only provide the current customer base, but provide the future workers in an economy. With marriage and fertility rates slowing, this trend of fewer marriages will have a negative long term impact on the economy.
According to Brookings, in 1970, 44 percent of women ages 30-50 had no independent earnings, compared to 25 percent of women today. Opportunities in the work place have allowed women to become more financially independent, making marriage less of an economic necessity. Add to that there are now a million more female college graduates than male in our workforce today. As recently as 2000, it was the opposite, there were a million more college educated men; our labor force has changed dramatically.
So is it time to turn back the clock and urge all of our young people to get married? Maybe it is time we elders just arrange marriages for our kids (because it doesn't look like the Internet is helping), just to save the economy. I am living the statistics. Of my four kids, ages 27 to 33, only one is married (happily I may add), so I have not done my job to boost this economy.
We in business have to take these statistics quite seriously. We cannot force people to get married, but we can encourage it. Dollar Days is giving away $5,000 worth of merchandise this month via its Facebook page that can be used in weddings to 25 lucky couples to help jump start the wedding economy and the institution of marriage. If you know someone who is getting married, or thinking about getting married, enter them into this great giveaway. They may not want you to play matchmaker, but this could be the next best thing to nudge them along.
We are aware that we cannot force the younger generation to do just about anything. They learned from us, good or bad, and will do what they want to do when they want to do it. So, if we can't convince them to get married because of love, let's convince them they need to do it to save the economy.
Marc Joseph is the author of The Secrets of Retailing, Or: How to Beat Wal-Mart! and the CEO/President and founder of DollarDays International Inc.