Let’s look at the statistics both in the USA and the UK.
In the USA in 1960 the average age for the groom was 23, and the bride 20, but by 2011 this had crept up to 29 and 26 respectively. In the UK in 1970, 80% of brides were under 25, however by 2012 this figure had shrunk to 14%. In the 1980s 60,000 UK brides were teenagers but by 2012 this was down to 3,000, with the average age of a bride up at 34 years old.
Back over in the States, Pew Research concluded that of young adults between the age of 18 and 34, they were more likely to be living at home than in any other living situation. This was broken down as 32.1% living with parents, 31.6% living with a spouse or partner in their own home, and 14% were living as a single parent or sharing with roommates or renters. The rest were with other relatives, or continuing education institutions.
In the UK 3.3 million 20-34 year olds are still living with parents, a leap of 618,000 since 1996, according to the Office for National Statistics. A fifth of 25 to 29 year olds still living with their parents, and half of those aged 20-24 and one in 10 aged 30-34 are also in the same boat.
This is a seismic shift in how we are structured as economies, countries, and communities. The analysis of why is easily repeated by every politician or economic expert, referring glibly to the property ladder being too expensive to reach that first rung, and combine that with most young adults are remaining in education longer. These facts are unassailable but do they really explain the trend. How far do the surveys extend into probing which economic/social section of the” young adults” account for the rapid rise in the “failure to launch” syndrome.
The syndrome deserves further analysis.
Marriage, as an institution, surprisingly, is faring well. Young people broadly believe in it still, and there has been only a slight decline pro rata in marriages recorded in churches and civil offices over the last 30 years. The biggest decline in weddings has been the teenage bride marriages, and that has gone hand in hand with society being far more accepting of children born out of wedlock, and therefore shotgun weddings have become a thing of the past. Even culturally, there has been a rapid decline in arranged marriages, due to modern value changes in many of the more traditional religions.
Education is playing its part. Not only are more young adults remaining in continuing education longer but by virtue of them being better educated their approach to modern living is driven be monetary common sense and reason, rather than pure volatile teenage passion. The huge increase in University placements and the rash of new Universities across the UK tells us 2 things. First it confirms the upward rise in average age of young adults still receiving education as opposed to working, and secondly it confirms a correlative increase in those taking on substantial debt because of the requirement to repay tuition and other fees on conclusion of that education.
However, that does not explain the fact that there are still a large number of young adults that do not go into tertiary education, instead leaving school as teenagers and here you will find that the proportions of this group “not living at home” although slightly diminished, the figure remain surprisingly stable over the last 20 years. These young adults are moving away from home with as much speed as they used to, often into shared or rented accommodation with partners or other young adults. The incidences of childbirth amongst this sector still remains at a younger average age and with much the same birth rate as it has for the last 20 years.
It is therefore the, once referred to as middle classes, or white collar workers’ children that are responsible for the syndrome.
Responsible analysis tells us that these largely aspirational young people want their own homes, and they want to be free of debt and inevitably in the current economic climate of housing shortages, high cost mortgages and shortage of well paid professional jobs then inevitably our children have nowhere to go for some time, other than to remain at home.
But I blame our generation for this calamity! And I am not fooled by the statistics and analysis applied by endless think tanks and national statistical surveys. By simple application of mathematics to these “statistics”, it is clear to me what is happening. One statistic gives it all away. The current average age of a bride is 34 years of age. Her parents came from the generation when the average age of grooms was 27, and brides were 24. That happens to be my baby boom, affluent, 80s and 90s wealthy generation…..you know, the generation that has spoilt it for the rest of the population, allegedly.