Careers and financial stability are the first priorities for millennials, and marriage comes later. Register file photo

Canadian millennials in no rush to marry, study finds

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  • September 6, 2016

OTTAWA – Career and financial stability are priorities before marriage for Canadian millennials, a Cardus Family study released Aug. 24 shows.

The generation born between 1980 and 2001 is delaying getting married, buying a home and having children, passing these adulthood milestones later than their predecessors, said the study, but they are also “much more fluid in the sequencing of these milestones.”

The statistics for the study, written by Cardus Family senior researcher Peter Jon Mitchell, came from the Canada Family Life Project based on a Nanos Research Poll conducted last spring.

Mitchell cites American sociologist Andrew Cherlin who points out marriage is now entered into only after the achievement of career and financial stability. Canadian evidence also points in that direction.

“The traditional sequence of marriage, home ownership and children has been reordered,” the study said.

The study examines possible barriers to earlier marriage, among them high student debt loads averaging $25,000 for each post-secondary school graduate, subsequent under-employment and financial dependency. Statistics Canada revealed 25 per cent of millennials aged 25-29 still live with their parents, the study said.

Fiscal instability, an unfavourable market for first-time home buyers and the average $31,000 cost of a wedding also contribute to delaying marriage, the study said, noting the age at which Canadians first marry has been “increasing steadily for decades” and is now 28 for women and 30 for men.

Those in higher-income brackets are more likely to marry than those in lower-income brackets, the study said. This so-called “marriage gap” between rich and poor has widened over the last 30 years.

“Women with post-secondary education were less likely to marry than their less-educated peers in 1980, but today that reality is reversed,” it said. “People with higher levels of educational attainment are meeting, marrying, consolidating their economic potential and pass it on to their offspring.”

While higher student debt may delay marriage, those with less education are the ones “failing to access the stability and wealth associated with the institution of marriage.”

“The survey’s snapshot view reveals that Canadian millennials view the concept of being married as a positive part of family life, and remain generally favourable towards marriage,” the study said. “Yet broad trends suggest that a strong sense of individualism shapes the perception of marriage as a personal choice, with little consideration for the institution as a public good.”

The survey showed a quarter of millennials view marriage “as an outdated institution,” with an even higher number of younger millennials holding that view.

“Still, for those who champion marriage, there is hope,” the study concluded. “Overall, marriage remains a positive ideal for many millennials. This should serve as a starting point for those individuals and community organizations looking to support and champion healthy marriages.”

The entire Canada Family Life Project can be downloaded via the Cardus.ca web site.

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