Even frequent critics of the various institutions linked to the Pew Research empire usually complain more about how Pew insiders parse and explain their data, as opposed to questioning the importance of the survey numbers they collect. In particular, news consumers can almost always count on the Pew scholars to pay attention to the religious, moral and cultural implications of trends they believe they have documented. When it comes to religion, Pew people consistently get it.
This is not always the case with people who try to spot the most newsworthy trends in all of those surveys and statistics. I make this observation at this time because of the Time magazine report that just ran, online, under the headline, "Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married."
To be blunt, there is no religion content in this Time essay, no exploration of its religious implications. That is not the case when one looks at the actual Pew Research numbers and the executive summary.
Moral implications, as opposed to mere economics? Check it out.
The bottom line is that the "number of single Americans who want to get married has dropped significantly even in the last four years." Here is a key block of the Time piece:
Each decade, the percentage of people of marriageable age who are single has grown. “When today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (roughly 25%) is likely to have never been married,” they write. “This is not to say that adults in their mid-40s to mid-50s who still haven’t married will never marry, but our analysis suggests that the chance of getting married for the first time after age 54 is relatively small,” adds Parker.
Why aren’t people getting married anymore? The three main reasons people give for their singleness are that they haven’t found the right person (30%), aren’t financially stable enough (27%) and are not ready to settle down (22%). Many more young people are eschewing tying the knot, at least for a while, for shacking up. The researchers don’t see that as the new normal yet. “Cohabitation is much less common than marriage and cohabiting relationships are much less stable than marriages,” says Parker. ”It’s hard to imagine marriage being replaced any time soon.”
So what is going on? What is the "why" factor in this story? Well, women are looking for men with secure jobs and that's becoming more and more problematic. Rising numbers of young men are becoming less successful. Those who are employed are making less money.
So why is that? Yes, the economy has been rough, but might there be moral, cultural and, yes, even religious factors at work here as well?
Yes, I said it: The decision to get married or not to get married may have moral implications. Readers who disagree are, in a way, making my point for me. I am curious to know if rising numbers of young Americans, well, believe that there are no moral or religious implications in the decision to never marry.
Since we are dealing with Pew research, I was curious to know if there were some people who thought this might have something to do with the research pointing toward the rise of -- wait for it -- those headline inspiring "nones" (more accurately, the rising number of people who identify are "religiously unaffiliated"). That angle is not even mentioned in the Time story, which turns this marriage thing into a pure economics story.
However, the Pew summary actually discusses other related Millennial trends that -- when you line the numbers up side by side -- seem to be connected to the marriage slide. Consider, for example, this long and, for those who speak "none" lingo fluently, familiar passage.
Millennials’ liberalism is apparent in their views on a range of social issues such as same-sex marriage, interracial marriage and marijuana legalization. In all of these realms, they are more liberal than their elders. However, on some other social issues -- including abortion and gun control -- the views of Millennials are not much different from those of older adults.
This generation’s religious views and behaviors are quite different from older age groups. Not only are they less likely than older generations to be affiliated with any religion, they are also less likely to say they believe in God. A solid majority still do -- 86% -- but only 58% say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists, a lower share than among older adults, according to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. But if past is prologue, these young adults may develop a stronger belief in God over the course of their lives, just as previous generations have.
I am not, of course, saying that economics have nothing to do with the decline in marriage numbers among the young. I am simply asking if young people who are committed to religious faith and practice might, you know, be more likely to end up taking marriage vows at altars. You think?
Let me state that another way: If large numbers of Millennials have changed their beliefs on marriage and sex, might these changed beliefs be related to their changing behaviors linked to marriage and sex?
Just asking. Members of the Time team might want to read these Pew materials again.