21st Century Households
Millennials as Traditionalists

Are Millennials just conventional Americans after all? For the last several years, pundits have been fascinated by millennials’ social and romantic habits and captivated by the received wisdom that Americans born after 1980 will turn out to be progressive individualists, skeptical of marriage and the nuclear family. But more and more data is calling that picture into question. The latest: a new study by the research group Demographic Intelligence, which shows that while Millennials have been delaying wedlock, they ultimately will opt for relatively traditional family structures. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Demographic Intelligence predicts that ultimately about 60% of the children of millennials will be born to married parents, up from about 45% today.

“The narrative about millennials has been they’re putting parenthood before marriage, never going to get married,” said Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, based in Charlottesville, Va. “Now that the cohort is in the middle of their 20s, from here on out you’re going to see a lot of millennial marriages and a lot of millennial married births.”

This isn’t the only way this generation’s behavior has defied expectations of its supposed cultural liberalism. As the New York Times recently reported, “millennial men have the least traditional notions about gender roles of any generation or time period”, but are still opting for a more or less traditional division of work and family responsibilities with their partners.

Millennials may turn out to be more similar to the Baby Boomers than they would like to admit. In the 1960s and 1970s, Boomers seemed to be fiercely socially progressive and eager to experiment with alternative social arrangements. Their generation was expected to upend American political and social life. But as they grew older, the Boomers’ radicalism slowly abated, and they married, had children, and lived relatively conventional lifestyles. Perhaps today’s young people are following a similar trajectory.

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