Pew Research Center’s FactTank: News in the Numbers recently published, “5 facts on love and marriage in America.” There are some interesting figures. The first fact has to do with the top reason Americans say they marry. Where does having children rank? Check it out.
Very Important Reasons to get Married
In response to the survey item which asked, “ ____ is a very important reason to get married,” most – 88% – cited for love. Other percentages include:
81%: making a lifelong commitment
49%: having children
30%: a relationship recognized in a religious ceremony
28%: financial stability
23%: for legal rights and benefits
Notice that just about half cited having children. I find this encouraging – that the pronatalist notion that people marry to have children is not strongly reflected here.
Keys to a Successful Marriage
Pew Research also asked, “____ is key to a successful marriage.” On this item, the percentages broke down this way:
64%: having shared interests
61%: satisfying sexual relationship
56%: sharing house hold chores
47%: shared religious beliefs
43%: having children
42%: adequate income
16%: agreement on politics
“Having children” falls at the less than half mark here as well. Like the first children-related response category above, pronatalist ideas about what marriage is “supposed” to be about – the raising of children – is certainly not reflected in this item as strongly as it would have been in generations past.
The percentage who responded “sharing household chores” brought to mind what I found in my interviews with happily married childfree couples for Families of Two, and in communicating with hundreds of childfree couples since. Many childfree couples talk about how they share domestics, and it does not always fall into “traditional” roles, e.g., one partner cooks and cleans, the other does fix- it things.
I would also wager that regarding a very important reason they marry, most childfree respondents in this survey would have fallen into the “for love,” “making a lifelong commitment” or “companionship” response categories.
Another observation: I wonder if they were surveyed again today, post our most recent presidential election, if the percentage for “agreement on politics” would be higher – ?! What do you think?
Childfree or not, how would you answer these two items?