At one corner of the internet, survey reports and feature stories suggest millennials, the generation known for delaying adulthood, predominantly opt for pets rather than children. But in another, data on millennials’ childbearing tendencies paint a different picture — one with serious financial consequences if the parents aren’t careful planners, especially for a generation already struggling under the weight of student debt.
Public acceptance of out-of-wedlock births reached a record high of 62 percent, and 68 percent of millennials, last year, compared to 45 percent in 2002, according to research from Gallup. With that acceptance comes a prevalence of unmarried millennials with children: Gallup also found that close to half of the oldest millennials, or those age 34, are having kids without exchanging vows, compared to just 30 percent of Gen Xers in 2000, when members of that cohort were between the ages of 30 and 34.
According to an analysis of government data by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, 55 percent of today’s 28- to 34-year-olds with kids put childbearing ahead of marriage. That’s more than double the quarter of younger Baby Boomers who could say the same between the mid-1980s and late 1990s, when they reached that age range. A third of older millennials overall, AEI also noted, had children outside of or before marriage, compared to a fifth of Baby Boomers upon reaching the same age.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and one of the authors of the AEI report, said the phenomenon stemmed from a confluence of social and economic changes.
“Liberals will stress economic factors and conservatives will stress cultural factors,” he said. But while “the economic circumstances make millennials take longer to establish stable careers,” the same pattern of out-of-wedlock births was not quite present among young people in…