Is Money Causing the Death of Marriage?

Last Updated Nov 18, 2010 3:56 PM EST

Just when Prince William and "Waity Katie" get engaged, is it possible that here in the US we are seeing the death of marriage?

Consider these facts:

  • In 1960, 72 percent of all adults were married, 68 percent of all twenty-somethings were married
  • In 2008, 52 percent of all adults were married26 percent of all twenty-somethings were married

In the span of fifty years, walking down the aisle has lost some of its luster, according to a recent Pew Research Center nationwide survey, conducted in association with TIME magazine, and complemented by an analysis of demographic and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39 percent) say that marriage is becoming obsolete -- in 1978 when TIME magazine posed this question to registered voters, just 28 percent agreed.

Although marriage is generally on the decline, there is a socio-economic skew: those with a college education and higher income are more more inclined to marry than those who are less-advantaged, who say that want to marry, but place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage.

This makes sense to me because throughout history, marriage has been more a matter of political alliances money and survival than of love. Some marriages were by proxy, some involved a dowry (bride's family giving money or presents to the groom or his family) and some required a bride price (the groom or his family giving money or a present to the bride's family). Even if there was no money that changed hands, for years many women sought economic security in marriage.

Today, more couples are living together rather than marrying--of course in the post-Great Recession era, that could also be out of economic survival. This is very bad news for people like me, who (1) likes fixing up people -- three marriages have resulted from blind dates that I have arranged and (2) loves attending weddings.

In any event, I'm trying not to get too down about the trend--love still conquers all and is the source of so many great songs! Of married adults, here are the reasons to get married (unmarried adults order these items the same way):

  • 93 percent for love
  • 87 percent for making a lifelong commitment
  • 81 percent for companionship
  • 59 percent for having children
  • 31 percent for financial stability
Image by Afroswede, CC 2.0
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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Emmy-nominated, Business Analyst for CBS News. She covers the economy, markets, investing and anything else with a dollar sign on TV, radio (including her nationally syndicated radio show), the web and her blog, "Jill on Money." Prior to her second career at CBS, Jill spent 14 years as the co-owner and Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. She began her career as a self-employed options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York, following her graduation from Brown University.