The Pew Research Center has a new report on marriage trends that’s worth reading. But the comparison with 1960 is unfortunate.
First, though, the original part is their own survey data, where we learn, for example, that most people who aren’t married still want to get married:
For the historical comparison, the report uses 1960 to represent “then” and 2010 to represent “now.” That’s convenient from a data perspective, and half a century is a good round number to cover. But it misses the opportunity to show how anomalous the 1950s were in U.S. history.
Here is their chart on the increasing age at first marriage:
Here is the same data trend stretched back to 1890:
Source: U.S. Census Bureau (spreadsheet).
The change since 1960 is big and important. But the 1950s doesn’t represent the “traditional” family.
UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation has taken the opportunity of the Pew Report to have more fun with charts that offer misleading start dates. Here’s their version:
None of this is to deny the importance of the decline of marriage rates in the last half century. It’s just to say the trend is not linear from traditional-then to hell-in-a-handbasket-now.