Millennials are marrying at low rates and exhibit high levels of political and religious disaffiliation, according to a new Pew Forum survey. As digital natives, they have a high degree of virtual connectivity with friends and relations, but they also register the lowest levels of social trust in generations. Here’s what the report has to say about marriage:
Millennials have also been keeping their distance from another core institution of society—marriage. Just 26% of this generation is married. When they were the age that Millennials are now, 36% of Generation X, 48% of Baby Boomers and 65% of the members of the Silent Generation were married…Most unmarried Millennials (69%) say they would like to marry, but many, especially those with lower levels of income and education, lack what they deem to be a necessary prerequisite—a solid economic foundation.
There are some counter-intuitive findings here: for example, the survey found low social trust paired with high trust in government and business. Millennials seem to trust depersonalized, national institutions more than voluntary communities or local institutions. One way to summarize all of the data unearthed by Pew is to say that social capital is lower among Millennials than it was even for Boomers, and it is getting lower.These and other findings have already given rise to a lot of generalized worries about Gen Y—for instance, that it will be more susceptible to demagoguery. But one very immediate reason for concern is the relationship between strong social capital and effective health care. A large number of studies have found that marriage, kinship networks and other forms of and social support correlate with good health, and are crucial for surviving major illnesses and even economizing on care costs. Moreover, the cultural and financial challenges eldercare presents become more acute the more socially isolated people become. These powerful but non-political factors, unfortunately, tend to be overlooked in a national health care debate that is overwhelmingly focused on policies and mechanics.