One of the major demographic and social changes of the last four decades has been the dramatic increase in the average age at which Americans first marry, from the early twenties in 1970 to the late twenties today. Delayed marriage in America has helped to bring the divorce rate down since 1980 and increased the economic fortunes of educated women, according to “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” a new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the RELATE Institute.
But another important consequence of this change is that a majority of young adults under 30 now have their first child before they marry. “Knot Yet” explores the causes and consequences of this revolution in family composition and explains why premarital childbearing is associated with dramatically different family formation strategies. The great crossover in childbearing and marriage is concentrated among the 60 percent of young adults who have a high school degree but not a college degree.
On March 20, the Center on Children and Families at Brookings hosted a discussion to explore the policy and cultural responses that may help reconnect marriage and parenthood. One of the report’s authors summarized the findings and recommendations; several authors and critics, representing an array of political viewpoints, provided their reactions.