timing of marriage is later today than
While there is no question that the timing of marriage is later today than in the 1950s, there is less certainty whether the ultimate likelihood of marriage also has fallen. Rodgers and Thornton (1985) estimate that only about 90% of the 1954 birth cohort will eventually marry, compared with 95-98% of cohorts coming of age in the 1950s. Such long-range projections of marriage patterns depend heavily on the theories to which one subscribes. According to linear theories of social change, we are unlikely to see a shift in current marriage patterns anytime soon because the social factors that contributed to their development, for example increased female labor force participation and earnings power, and non-marital sexual activity, have been fairly steady. Cyclical theories, in contrast, view marriage behavior as responsive to such cycles as those produced by the economy and changes in cohort size. Accordingly, Easterlin and others predict earlier and more marriages in the 1990s than in recent years (Espenshade, 1985), since smaller birth cohorts will enter adulthood during this period and will face improved economic prospects compared to young adults of recent decades. Still, it is debatable whether future cohorts will use their improved economic position to marry and form families earlier, or to enrich their single lifestyle.