Monday, 22 June 2009

Whatever happened to the institution of marriage?

Marriage is in remorseless decline. This chart doesn't do justice to the problem. It only measures the number of marriages each year. With a growing population, it would be reasonable to expect an increasing number of marriages. However, that is not what is happening.

There is at least one silver lining. The number of divorces is also falling. After all, you can't get divorced if you aren't actually married.

I don't have much of an explanation for the decline of marriage. However, I think a friend of mine offered a clue when she went to a hairdressers, just before her big day at the altar. She told her stylist that she was getting married, who commented "how posh!".

Yes, getting married is now only for the middle classes. Everyone else puts up with a casual and non-committal arrangement known as co-habitation.


Richard Wellings said...

One explanation for the decline in marriage among lower socio-economic groups may be the way the welfare system works against couples. For example, marriage or official cohabitation will generally lead to one partner losing his or her council flat and then possibly struggling to get cheap social housing in the future if the relationship then breaks down. It may be rational to hide the relationship from the authorities and sublet the spare flat illegally.

An Admirer said...

Alice, now that you have brought this deplorable situation to light, it would be wrong for me to hide my my true feelings any longer. Will you marry me?

Anonymous said...

Just a few years ago 50% of married couples were female!

Alice Cook said...


I have to decline.

Although you won't find me in that particular chart, there exists a another chart elsewhere, where I can be found.


Phill Tomlinson said...

Population Demographics.

DrClaire said...

Hi Alice,

Love your blog. Could you redo the chart as marriages per 1000 population or something similar, to reflect the falling marriage rate more accurately?


An Admirer said...

Woe is the UK number of marriages chart. And me too, though I can still pin my hopes on reincarnation. And your hint about another chart brings home just how little I actually know about you. Which one could rule out nuptials? Population under the age of 18? I must say you're very mature and well-informed for your age.

(the question was rethorical; I really wouldn't mind being left guessing)

Sackerson said...

Even fewer, if you take out marriages of convenience and other bogus marriages.

dearieme said...

The rich are fools to marry because the divorce courts will rob them. The poor because the welfare state will stuff them. That probably leaves those in the middle who are of a sentimental disposition. Plus Sackers'immigration-fiddlers.

Craig said...

Alice, (gets down on one knee) will you be my wife?

Anonymous said...

What was it someone in Hollywood said a couple of years ago - Marriage, why bother? Just find someone you hate and sign your house over to them :)

Barry said...

State sponsored hostility to the institution of marriage is a large part of the answer, the primary way this was done is by shifting the bias of tax and benefits away from those who were married. In effect it makes no financial sense to get married. Integrated into this is the amoral stance of the intellectual classes who have undermined the attitudes, turning people against the responsibilities of marriage and the raising of children. The psuedo encouragements given to individual satisfactions and supposed independence, which in effect means making people ever more vulnerability, has also been a state sponsored aim.

There is much more to be said about this, you might read Farewell to the Family by Patricia Morgan. Depressing but on the money.

Alas I will not offer to share my humanity in marriage with you, pretty well past it now. Take it steady, regards.

Anonymous said...

Too dam expensive.

Mick said...

At the start of your graph marriage represented two things:

1. A means of getting laid
2. Escape from parents

With social mobility and changes in society neither apply any more. That's why the figures are going down.