NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gen-X Attitudes Towards Marriage

January 23, 2003

Nearly half of America's twenty-somethings are willing to virtually abolish marriage, while half are looking for tougher divorce laws, according to a remarkable study of never-married singles in the 20-to-29 age range by researchers at the National Marriage Project of Rutgers University.

According to a Gallup poll commissioned by the National Marriage Project, 78 percent of the Gen-Xers surveyed agree a couple should not get married unless they are prepared to stay together for life.

  • An extraordinary 45 percent agree that the government should not even be involved in licensing marriage.
  • Some 43 percent agree that government should provide cohabiting couples with the same benefits as married couples.

The proposals supported by just under half of those surveyed would effectively abolish marriage itself, says Stanley Kurtz. Without state sanction or differential benefits, marriage would quickly be transformed from an honorable and influential public institution into an infinitely variable series of privately crafted contracts.

The most disturbing finding, says Kurtz, may be the degree to which young people see marriage as a thing apart from parenting.

  • Only 16 percent of young adults agree the main purpose of marriage is to raise children.
  • Oblivious to the well-documented drawbacks of single parenting, more than four out of ten of those surveyed describe adults who intentionally raise a child out of wedlock as simply "doing their own thing."

Source: Stanley Kurtz, "Marriage and the Gen-Xer," Hoover Digest, No. 4, 2002; based on Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, "The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America, 2001," National Marriage Project of Rutgers University.


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