Opinion -- Traditional values have never been less popular than they are now. This is especially the case with my own millennial generation (those born generally in the 1980’s and 90’s). The incredible popularity of Bernie Sanders among those my age shows just how progressive they tend to be. They also have extremely liberal political views and attend church less than other generations.
Beyond their political and religious beliefs, millennials are shunning basic family values more so than any previous generation. Statistics show that our generation is getting married at lower rates than other generations did at this age. Despite this, millennials are still having children, as the vast majority of them believe that having children out of wedlock is “morally acceptable.” In fact, research shows that “55 percent of millennial parents have had children before getting married,” while only “25 percent of the youngest baby boomers” did the same.
Most millennials believe in moral relativity, or the idea that morality is an individual choice. However, evidence suggests that this particular choice of having children outside of marriage is having a negative impact on our generation. A recent study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) concluded that “the most financially successful young adults today continue to be those who put marriage before the baby carriage.”
The results of this study are significant. It found that those young people who get married before having children have a 33 percent higher likelihood to end up within the middle or top income earners. This even holds true for those who are less fortunate. Millennials from low-income families who wait until marriage for children have a 30 percent higher likelihood to become a middle or top-third earner than those who don’t. This defeats the argument that those who have children outside of wedlock at a young age are simply more likely to be poor.
Waiting until marriage is simply one aspect of what experts call the “success sequence.” This concept basically argues that the way to stay out of poverty is to follow three steps in order: “1) Earn at least a high school diploma, 2) get a full-time job, and 3) marry before having kids.” According to AEI and IFS, “Only three percent of millennials who followed all three steps, in sequence, are poor by the time they reach their late 20s or early 30s.” As a comparison, those who don’t follow the steps are 53 percent likely to end up in poverty.
The simple fact is, as Professor Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University says, “The lofty place that marriage once held among the markers of adulthood is in serious question among early adults.” Perhaps many see marriage as confining or as a symbol of their parents’ moral systems that they’ve chosen to reject.
Regardless, not having children before you get married is very practical. The benefits to the individual and to the rest of society are clear. For one thing, raising children while married makes life easier, even if it’s simply from “pooling resources.” This includes everything from “affording a home to being involved at school.” It also “helps people stay healthier and live longer.” The benefits translate to the children as well, who benefit from the added income, the extra parenting time, and the increased stability that tends to come along with marriage.
Children raised in married homes are “more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to be physically or sexually abused, less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to commit delinquent behaviors, have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married, are less likely to become pregnant/impregnate someone as a teenager, and are less likely to be raised in poverty.” The societal benefits that can be gleaned from these are obvious. When people are more prosperous, they contribute more in taxes and take less in welfare. The more educated they are, the more the contribute to the economy. The fewer crimes people commit, well, that has numerous benefits.
A report noted that, “Marriage is a wealth generating institution.” The evidence is certainly apparent that those millennials who wait until marriage to have children are far more prosperous. Marriage is considered more of a traditional value, but, when it comes to having children, waiting is simply a matter of personal responsibility.
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