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Are millennials forced to choose work over relationships?

Millennials are delaying finding partners until much later than their parents. According to US data, six in 10 young adults live without a spouse or romantic partner.

Is work responsible for millennials’ delayed partnerships? The answer is yes. And no. And also, it’s complicated.

Millennials, marriage, and work

The job market has played a hand in this trend, particularly by reducing millennial’s earning power.

Millennials earn less today than young people of past generations, and they regularly cite a lack of financial stability as a major reason for not marrying.

The roots of the problem are widespread. To name a few: many millennials entered the job market when the GFC hit; economic inequality has grown; student loans account for a majority of millennial debt; and they must compete with a pre-established and educated labour force that is staying in the job market longer, lowering job availability while increasing entry-level requirements.

Nor is it a lack of thrift or acute budgeting. In the US millennials are buying fewer assets — cars, homes, and even groceries — than previous generations as a matter of economic necessity.

Romantic partners: the new financial asset?

The result of this financial instability? Marriage and other forms of partnership are becoming privileges for the better-off. Millennials say they want to marry or have romantic partners someday. Those who can afford it ultimately do. Those who can’t don’t.

Work and finances are important considerations, but they aren’t the only ones steering millennials to delay their partner searches. The big reason regularly cited by millennials is that they haven’t yet found the right person. Another is that they aren’t ready to settle down.

Work may impact these reasons, too. Despite common stereotypes, millennials are workaholics. They are much more likely than baby boomers or Gen Xers to agree with statements like “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job” and “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.” It’s difficult to meet people when your job is always on.

Cultural shifts play their part, too. Millennials both incite and abstain from hook-up culture more than previous generations. While many may want to marry someday, they view it as less of a priority. And more millennials take the time to develop a strong sense of adult identity outside of marriage.

Good things come to those who wait

The millennials’ wait-and-see approach may pay off for them in the end. Dr. Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, analysed America’s divorce rates. He found it had declined by 18 percent in 2017 because millennials were less likely to divorce than baby boomers. He surmised this was because they waited longer, had more education, and were less likely to have children before tying the knot.

Millennials may be delaying finding partners due to work and other cultural considerations, but when they finally find one, it seems they are more likely to find a love that lasts.

- Washington Post

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