Today’s 18-to-29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life, while 30% say the same about having a successful marriage .
This means there is a 73% gap in the way Millennials value parenthood more than marriage.
When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just 20%. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.
More significantly, 18-to-29-year-olds were much more likely to be married and/or have children in 1997 than 2010. Forty-one percent of Gen Xers had children in 1997, 14% more than the 36% of Millennials who had children in 2010. And 29% of Gen Xers were married in 1997, 32% more than 22% of Millennials who were married in 2010.
Even though their generation has been slow to marry and have children, most Millennials look forward to doing both. Among 18- to 29-year-olds who are not currently married and have no children, 70% say they want to marry and 74% say they want to have children.
Among those who have never married and have no children, 66% want to marry and 73% want to have children. However, a significant minority of Millennials aren’t sure they want marriage (25%) or parenthood (19%). And a small minority say they do not want to marry (5%) or have children (7%).
Despite having a high rate of wanting to get married, 44% of Millennials say marriage is becoming obsolete, virtually the same percentage as Gen Xers (43%). However, Millennials are 26% more likely than Boomers (35%) and 37.5% more likely than adults 65 and older (32%) to express this opinion.
Similarly, 46% of Millennials say the growing variety in family arrangements is a good thing, making them 24% more likely than Gen Xers (37%) to agree with this statement. In addition, Millennials are 64% more likely than Boomers (28%) and 91% more likely than adults 65 and older (24%) to hold this view.
The American public is sharply divided in its judgments about the sweeping changes in the structure of the American family that have unfolded during the last 50 years, according to other recent data from the Pew Research Center. About a third generally accepts the changes, a third is tolerant but skeptical and a third considers them bad for society.
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