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Taking America's Temperature
January 17, 2014 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Pollsters Pew Research chart 13 big shifts in American's opinions which happened in 2013. Tipping points and new thresholds have been established on topics ranging from marihuana legalization to isolationism to gay marriage.
posted by Diablevert (55 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
So it seems that the US is becoming more liberal-minded, which is making the conservative-minded louder and more desperate.
posted by xingcat at 8:12 AM on January 17 [14 favorites]


I've been using marijuana legalization as an example of a phenomenon which has been bothering me for some time, specifically the disconnect between the political class and the masses. Legalization has been polling north of 50% for years now, and yet among politicians it's regarded as a joke. Even most liberal politicians roll their eyes at it. It's a majority opinion that until very recently had no political traction at all. That's a sign of deep sickness.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:13 AM on January 17 [38 favorites]


Legalization has been polling north of 50% for years now, and yet among politicians it's regarded as a joke.

And among the media. The condescending pun-filled headlines you get with every single story about marijuana decriminalization/legalization aren't just stupid, they're a sign of the same sickness you're talking about.
posted by saturday_morning at 8:18 AM on January 17 [14 favorites]


That's a sign of deep sickness.

Do you think it is a sickness? I assume this type of disconnect is due to the age of policiticians vs the age of the masses. It is my understanding that this is typical of our government to take a few decades to come around to recent issues due to age discrepencies.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:18 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


speaking of the disconnect between the political class and the masses
posted by larry_darrell at 8:19 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


That's a sign of deep sickness.

Backed by deep comittment the still extremely lucrative failed Drug War.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:21 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


For an issue to get political traction it has to be motivational. Take Abortion for instance, it gets folks on both sides fired up. All jokes aside, pot in itself is not very motivational outside the people that use it. What does win votes in the drug debate are the class and racial issues associated with the war on drugs. As you see these issues being addressed more and more with outrage in the public, so have the polling numbers changed. There have been some baby steps towards legalization on the federal level (eg we now have had three consecutive presidents known to have used the stuff, two admitting to it rather openly, also the removal of added penalties for crack has been a step in the right direction).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:23 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


A record seven-in-ten (69%) Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, two percentage points higher than the rate (67%) among their white counterparts.

Wow, just wanted to highlight this.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:24 AM on January 17 [26 favorites]


that deep sickness is explained by the last graph. Read all the way through ;)
posted by k5.user at 8:35 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Guv Corbett (PA) has been softening his stance on MMJ. He's still against it, but he's not railing at MJ as the "gateway drug" as he was just a few years ago.

The dude's a devil, and if God is just he will be a one-term guv, and this is why, probably, he's changed his tone by degree on the MMJ issue.
posted by angrycat at 8:44 AM on January 17


I don't know, angrycat, Pennsylvania still can't even figure out how to sell alcohol rationally, I doubt that MMJ is going to happen anytime soon.
posted by octothorpe at 8:49 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


You know what the first line of this FPP does NOT say?

Pollsters Pew Research chart 13 big shits

I swear I read that like 4 times all whaaaaat knowing I couldn't possibly be seeing what I was seeing and yet seeing it anyway.


I'm pleased to say that I personally contributed to the smartphone data. Now a happy owner of pocket internet.
posted by phunniemee at 8:50 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


For an issue to get political traction it has to be motivational.

Yes, it has to be imperative and even desperate for someone to go to the difficult lengths it takes to make these kind of changes happen, and this is why it's only been the growing advocacy of medical marijuana for the pain-ridden terminally ill, and now the use of cannibidiols (sp?) for children with severe epilepsy disorders, that we're seeing more widespread movement on the issue, after decades of casual users muttering to themselves that drug laws are unfair dude.
posted by aught at 8:50 AM on January 17


I wonder how much of this will be decried on Fox News as a liberal smokescreen?

1. Over half of the public favors same sex marriage
About time. And I think this reveals something of a counterpoint to Karl Rove's strategy of finding divisive issues -- when you do that, a lot of people will vote as you wish short term because of it, but some will find in it an opportunity to reevaluate their own opinions, and possibly change stances.

5. Over half of Americans believe the government threatens personal freedoms.
This isn't exactly what I'd call a liberal belief, especially considering who's President right now, but it is still heartening. Manning and Snowden have had this effect, certainly.

6. 36% of young adults aged 18-31 live in their parents' homes.
Certainly an effect of the changing nature of the economy. I've been giving to wondering lately, if a day isn't coming when we don't even care how well the economy does, as it comes to consist more and more of very rich people giving each other money, never touching the hands of ordinary people. Why does it even matter to us if the economy hits record highs if unemployment is high too?

7. A record 40.4M immigrants in US.
Note that the (I guess estimated) number of unauthorized immigrants is going down, presumably as some of them become authorized.

9. A record 7-in-10 Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college the year they graduated.
I'm unsure about this one, what does it necessarily prove when someone goes directly into college?

13. 50% of the public sites the Internet as a main source for national and international news.
The "internet," as a source is far less monolithic as television (which is higher still according to the chart, at 69%), and could consist of anything from people going to the websites of Cable TV networks to people keeping up with Metafilter. I notice, however, that newspapers are down to 28%, and radio (still mostly a bastion of right-wing blowhards) is up at 23%. It would be interesting to see magazines plotted on this chart.
posted by JHarris at 8:50 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Pollsters Pew Research chart 13 big shits

That would be P.U. Research.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:52 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


JHarris: "I think this reveals something of a counterpoint to Karl Rove's strategy of finding divisive issues -- when you do that, a lot of people will vote as you wish short term because of it, but some will find in it an opportunity to reevaluate their own opinions, and possibly change stances."

Is that what is happening or is it just a case of old people dieing?
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 AM on January 17


This isn't exactly what I'd call a liberal belief, especially considering who's President right now, but it is still heartening. Manning and Snowden have had this effect, certainly.

The data does suggest that liberals are largely supportive of the surveillance state:

The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76% of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54% describe the government as a “major” threat. Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom; 47% said it was a major threat.

By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38% say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16% view it as a major threat.


I'm guessing this has more to do with the President than Manning and Snowden.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:57 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


The data doesn't show what you say it shows, the poll says nothing about the surveillance state or support thereof.

Its common in right-wing circles, since well before the civil war, to decry anything that the federal government does to mitigate the causes and effects of inequality. Gay marriage, the civil rights act, the welfare state, the EPA, the clean air/water legislation, have all been opposed by right wingers under the motto of 'state's rights' and opposition to the federal government.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:01 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Is that what is happening or is it just a case of old people dieing?

Probably is both.

I'm guessing this has more to do with the President than Manning and Snowden.

I really suspect not, regardless of your figure (there are people in-between, who don't have a vested interest in either side, and I can see the revelations being very persuasive with them), but seeing as how I can't afford my own poll to put figures to my suspicion, will have to let it drop at that.
posted by JHarris at 9:04 AM on January 17


Taking America's Temperature

And yet nothing on attitude changes (if any) towards global climate change.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:05 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The data doesn't show what you say it shows, the poll says nothing about the surveillance state or support thereof.

I suppose you're right, I can't help but see a connection though. It's certainly possible for that perception to be wrong.
posted by JHarris at 9:06 AM on January 17


Problem: The U.S. has the world's highest incarceration rate, overwhelmingly of a minority segment of the population, due to the number of non-violent drug users locked away.

Solution: Make marijuana legal for cancer and glaucoma treatments.

MMJ has never been the right way to look at the issue and will continue to be a ridiculous (though clearly well-intended) sideshow.

And the news networks can continue to look at every report showing that 49%, 50%, 51%, etc. of Americans support MJ legalization and make 420 jokes while clearly presenting the majority of Americans in this situation as some wacky "other," because, in the minds of people who still watch news networks, they are.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:24 AM on January 17


It's probably some of both. When asked, "Do you think the federal government threatens your personal freedoms?" I'm sure some people think, "Yes, this surveillance state stuff is getting out of hand." While others think, "Legalizing same-sex marriage threatens my freedom of religion."

That seconds group will probably go on to rant about illegal immigrants or something and I'm sure there are other people who would answer yes or no for other reasons. Point is, the chart doesn't really make a distinction between them. It tells us that most people think the federal government is a threat but doesn't break out what people think those threats are.
posted by VTX at 9:25 AM on January 17


#6: I am a graduate student (and before that, a working "young professional") living with roommates. Do I fall under the "other independent living arrangements" in that question?

If so, that percentage is surprisingly small in 1968, although I guess a much younger average age of marriage in 1968 vs. 2012 probably accounts for that.
posted by andrewesque at 9:27 AM on January 17


"Yes, this surveillance state stuff is getting out of hand." While others think, "Legalizing same-sex marriage threatens my freedom of religion."

You left off "Obama wants to take my guns!!!!1!"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:29 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


36% of young adults aged 18-31 live in their parents' homes.
Certainly an effect of the changing nature of the economy. I've been giving to wondering lately, if a day isn't coming when we don't even care how well the economy does, as it comes to consist more and more of very rich people giving each other money, never touching the hands of ordinary people. Why does it even matter to us if the economy hits record highs if unemployment is high too?


It's not just the ability to get a job, but pay off bills, specifically debt for tuition, and related poor credit scores. Also, it's a shift in ideals and norms, where staying (or moving back) with your parents isn't as stigmatized as it used to be. No longer is it simply the realm of geeks and losers, but a valid option.

There are larger changes in the "millennials" housing patterns. More likely to move for a better job offer, more likely to move for the chance to live in a "dream town," less tied to their surrounding community, but more driven by places with amenities. (Sorry, no handy web citations for this, these are notes from a presentation recently given by someone in real estate at a planning conference.)

This is really an interesting time, especially for people in politics and planning/development, as there are a lot of significant changes in population trends.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:33 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


bbqturtle,

The government is run by political parties which are funded by corporations. At least half of Congress is comprised of millionaire lawyers, who simply don't have the same priorities (or interest in solving them) as the rest of Americans, unless it's guaranteed to get them re-elected. Americans aren't really interested in politics because they are told that nothing gets done in government. In fact, pretty much everything gets done in government.

Look at how far America is lagging behind on key issues like health care, environmental concerns, income inequality, and energy policy. The discrepancy between polling and the actions of our government is due to corruption, plain and simple. Corporations ensure re-elections by padding political coffers, in exchange for special breaks and protections for their own industries. For instance, we could reform health care and save every man, woman, and child $3000 per year and end up with better health results, if we can match the performance of a dozen other nations with less money. However, since that would damage corporate profits, it is not politically possible. Think about that for a minute: the basic health and happiness of every man, woman, and child in America cannot compete with the profit interests of one industry. That's where we are at as a nation.

If you picture all of this financial power as weight, and put it in the pockets of people who benefit from government protection of their industry, our current political predicament makes sense. To take a historical example, when America was switching to electricity from kerosene, huge sums of money were spent by the barons of the old technology to try and convince the population that kerosene was safer and more convenient. Today the same thing is happening to the fossilized fuel industry. Difficult extraction methods are leading to more and more catastrophes and environmental damage, and there are not a few people who think that the widespread use of fossilized fuel is problematic:
When thousands of gallons of gasoline enter the soil, chemicals travel to groundwater, which the EPA says is the source of drinking water for nearly half the U.S. If buying a home, consider its potential loss in value if a nearby underground storage tank were to leak. Gasoline additives such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), which has been outlawed in some states, make the water undrinkable—and that is only one of 150 chemicals in gasoline. Repeated high exposure to gasoline, whether in liquid or vapor form, can cause lung, brain and kidney damage, according to the NIH’s National Library of Medicine.
In a nutshell, fossil fuel assets are very likely to become a large liability, if sane health policies could ever be formulated to protect Americans from irresponsible corporations and their activities. Diesel exhaust is also very dangerous, but changing our transportation infrastructure would involve a lot of market movement. That potential financial impact is not tolerated by the companies and individuals who direct our national affairs. Enjoy your extra source of carcinogens. Keep quiet while wars are waged for "American interests" where "American" means wealthy/important and "interest" means assets. Conversely, the people who actually fight in those wars who want the services the government promised are tossed aside whenever possible, precisely because our government is no longer run for the benefit of citizens or even veterans. Our government is run for the express interest of the wealthy whenever that is politically possible.

All of this is made possible through the corruption of our government. Corruption makes it possible for a billionaire to pay less tax as part of their income as a receptionist. Corruption makes it possible to prevent the formation of life-saving health care policies because they will damage corporate profits. Corruption makes it possible to cut food stamps citing fiscal responsibility, while refusing to police Wall Street or banking in general. (To get arrested, you have to protest injustice. The greedy bankers are too soft and weak to survive an investigation, let alone handcuffs and a jail cell.) Corruption makes it possible to fund hundreds of billions of dollars to defend America against the ski boats of Iran, the imaginary WMDs in Iraq, and other existential threats to America. We may outgun the entire world by ourselves despite having 5% or so of world population, but you can never be too sure.

The Republican Party, unfortunately, has been occupied by these actors because their actual political base is shrinking. Deep corporate pockets and endless propaganda efforts focused on wedge issues are the only way for certain industries to survive, since their counterparts on the Democratic side have been radicalized for political purposes in the other direction. If you remember the 2012 Republican Primary, you will also remember the embarrassing attempts at this type of fear-mongering. And of course, their "Man of the People," who really connected to average Americans who also train their horses to dance ballet.

Even Obama falls into this camp partially: he's an ivy league grad. He knew a lot of insiders in Washington before the election. He's certainly to the left of the GOP, but the GOP is so far right they have fallen off of the political spectrum as far as the rest of the world is concerned. The President before him also claimed to be a Washington outsider -- curious for the son of a one term President, two-term Vice President, and former head of the CIA. These institutions know how to pick their own: their survival depends on it.

However, there is hope, as evidenced by this poll, especially in item #13. The reason, I think, is actually not because internet media is more reliable, but because it is notoriously unreliable. Information (especially from dissenting viewpoints) is much cheaper to obtain, and information is still power, so long as we don't fall into a full totalitarian state (which our government is giddily laying the groundwork for). These dying industries and their counterparts in Congress can be swept out in a single election, and that's what I really hope for 2014/2016: lots of people voting in primaries and general elections, sweeping out a universally despised Congress that has done practically nothing for the working people of this country for more than 30 years.

Having a vast unemployed electorate who do not agree with their elected officials and do not ingest news solely through the television will certainly help. The message should be simple: operate a transparent office, tell us who you are talking to and why and what was said, or we will make your political life a living hell until we vote you out in the next election. There is simply no reason why an elected official should have the right to privacy in a public office. If they don't want to answer for their actions and decisions by providing transparency, they lack the moral capacity to lead, period.
posted by deanklear at 9:35 AM on January 17 [16 favorites]


Navelgazer: "MMJ has never been the right way to look at the issue and will continue to be a ridiculous (though clearly well-intended) sideshow."

MMJ's intent has always been to be the thin end of the wedge. If you can get people to accept that it's okay to sometimes use this drug, they are primed to accept wider uses. I'd say the strategy seems to be successful.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:45 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


I'd marry a potgay.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:48 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I'd marry a potgay.

Hooking up while stoned is no basis for a marriage.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:56 AM on January 17


Better than a medicalmarijiuanacivilunion any day.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:56 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The real mind-blowing stat I noticed, which is not something you'll see talked about anywhere because it doesn't fall into line with any of the overarching narratives about "Millennials", is the rise in living arrangements that are neither "at home with parents" or "head of household".

In 1968 only 13% of Americans 18-31 didn't live with their parents or in their own nuclear family unit households.

In 2013, 41% have some other living arrangement, with the vast bulk of that being "Other Independent Living Arrangement" (roommates, I'm guessing?) rather than living with another relative or living alone.

It says a lot that 27% of "Millennials" have some kind of alternative housing situation, as opposed to previous generations where one could expect to have one's own space once one left the nest. It's really the opposite of the media narrative, since living with parents has only jumped 4 percent since 1968. If the media was logical, the big generational narrative would be that young people nowadays are unusually resourceful about housing ourselves despite the fact that most of us can't afford our own places to live.
posted by Sara C. at 9:58 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


All jokes aside, pot in itself is not very motivational outside the people that use it.

If I had to speculate, I'd say that the big change has been that, nowadays, a majority of people have at least tried pot, and most likely know people who use it casually.

I remember when I started college in '99, there was a big Legalize It rally in Boston Commons. Pretty much everybody there was stoner types or people who you would be able to visually pull out of a crowd as "the type of person who obviously smokes a lot of weed" (hippies, rastas, hacky-sack players, white people with dreads, etc). It seemed obvious to me that the main reason we weren't legalizing pot was that the only people who cared about the issue were people who had a specific interest in pot.

I'm pretty sure that's what changed -- instead of a niche issue only diehards think about, everyone under the age of 65 is basically like "um, duh."
posted by Sara C. at 10:02 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


MMJ has never been the right way to look at the issue and will continue to be a ridiculous (though clearly well-intended) sideshow.

Philosophically, I agree. But practically? The effect of MMJ legislation is that pretty soon, everyone knows someone with a weed card, or at least knows someone who knows someone with a weed card, and you see those people still going to work, parenting their children, generally being upstanding and productive citizens. It helps disassociate "pot smokers" from "violent criminal enterprise and those who are willing to take part in such in order to get high." And then, once people are able to start to recognize that the greatest harm in the drug is not in the consumption of it but in the corruption and illegality of producing and selling it, and in the incarceration of those who possess it, they start to wonder what the purpose is of having it be illegal at all.
posted by KathrynT at 10:04 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


I'm unsure about this one, what does it necessarily prove when someone goes directly into college?

That the person in question is middle class, or is upwardly mobile and was raised with middle class values about things like the value of a college education.

FWIW I live in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and the 70% college stat does not surprise me at all, for various reasons.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Re the smartphone stat, I recently bricked my phone (entirely due to my own idiocy), was months away from a subsidized upgrade, and my only official option was to downgrade to a "dumb phone". The AT&T rep actually wouldn't let me do it and got a manager to override something and give me my upgrade 8 months early. Because god forbid anyone have a phone that can't deposit a check or narrate turn-by-turn directions.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Taking America's Temperature

Thank goodness this time around it seems as though they did this orally through a poll and not by proposing some more batshit insane legislation and offering it to us rectally.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:22 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


It says a lot that 27% of "Millennials" have some kind of alternative housing situation

Maybe not; that figure includes "living with unmarried partners" along with roommates and boarders. Once you factor that in, the number seems a lot less dramatic. Dovetails in with fewer people marrying, or at least putting off marriage (or being legally forbidden to marry), while cohabiting basically like a married couple.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:30 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I've been using marijuana legalization as an example of a phenomenon which has been bothering me for some time, specifically the disconnect between the political class and the masses. Legalization has been polling north of 50% for years now, and yet among politicians it's regarded as a joke. Even most liberal politicians roll their eyes at it. It's a majority opinion that until very recently had no political traction at all. That's a sign of deep sickness.

There's probably a pretty significant gap between general public opinion and the opinions of actual voters--who skew considerably older. A representative democracy can only be "representative" of those who actually bother to vote.

There's also the problem that a lot of the support for legalization of marijuana is uncommitted support. That is, there are a lot of people who will say "yeah, sure, whatever" when asked by a pollster about the issue, but who wouldn't actually let the issue determine who they voted for in an election.
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Once you factor that in, the number seems a lot less dramatic. Dovetails in with fewer people marrying, or at least putting off marriage (or being legally forbidden to marry), while cohabiting basically like a married couple.

Sure, but this is absolutely an economic indicator.

And, again, even if you assume that entire 27% is mostly cohabiting couples, it's a much more statistically significant shift than the predominant narrative of young people living with their parents, which as you can see from the stats, has barely changed at all over the last 50-odd years.
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 AM on January 17


number 12... I AM THE 9% :)
posted by symbioid at 10:42 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


yoink: "There's also the problem that a lot of the support for legalization of marijuana is uncommitted support. That is, there are a lot of people who will say "yeah, sure, whatever" when asked by a pollster about the issue, but who wouldn't actually let the issue determine who they voted for in an election."

Yeah, this is a general problem with most polling, IMHO. There are lots of issues that I have some interest in, but would not necessarily sway my vote. "Soft support."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:47 AM on January 17


I related news "p < 0.05" matters less and less each year.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:55 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Forget the legalization polls for a second, as I continually try and hammer home in these discussions medical marijuana polls at 80%+. It polls very well across parties and racial and age demographics. It doesn't matter if people are super motivated about it or not when the support is that overwhelming. PG was exactly right about the sickness this reveals in our media and government. The people's will is not just refused, it is often openly mocked while people are suffering unnecessarily.

Anyway, the country is becoming more isolationist, pot loving, and in favor of equal rights for gay folks? It's like the country is me ten-fifteen years ago. I hope in a decade more they will start to agree with me on solutions for wealth inequality and transgender rights.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:12 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


(And doing something about climate change, maybe they should rush on coming to terms with that one)
posted by Drinky Die at 1:14 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Looking at longer term trends, the analysis finds that the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant from 1968 (the earliest comparable data available) to 2007, at about 32%. However, other household arrangements of young adults changed dramatically during this period. For example, the share who were married and living with a spouse fell from 56% in 1968 to 27% in 2007. And the share who were living with a roommate or child or were cohabiting with a partner increased nearly fivefold (from 5.5% to 26%).
I think it's likely that the increase in 'other' arrangements is significantly influenced by more people living together rather than getting married more so than economic factors. The proportion of people living together and married has changed little since 2007. If the cause was primarily economic, I would expect to have seen significant changes since 2007.

Because god forbid anyone have a phone that can't deposit a check or narrate turn-by-turn directions.
Or that anyone can't take advantage of their generous and super-cheap data plans available ...
posted by dg at 3:18 PM on January 17


But, again, you understand that cohabiting rather than marrying is an economic factor, right?
posted by Sara C. at 3:30 PM on January 17


Well, I agree that it could be an economic factor, but I don't see how it is categorically one. Are you suggesting that the predominant reason people cohabit rather than getting married is because they can't afford to get married? I think a factor in a couple deciding to live together is often cost (two can live as cheaply as one etc), but not as an alternative to getting married.
posted by dg at 4:01 PM on January 17


Not for 18-31 it isn't. Especially at the lower end of that group. It's socially a lot more acceptable to live with someone you are dating, and also people get married later for many many reasons (including that premarital sex is the norm.)
posted by aspo at 4:07 PM on January 17


Also, aren't there tax and other financial benefits for married couples in the US that don't apply to unmarried couples?
posted by dg at 4:15 PM on January 17


A lot of 20-somethings cohabit with someone they have no real intention of marrying (or at least to whom they have not given much thought to marrying) because housing is a lot cheaper that way.

Part of the reason people are marrying later nowadays than they used to is that because of student loans and the amount of time it takes to settle into a real career, a lot of people aren't ready for marriage until their 30s.

Another reason people wait to marry nowadays is that people often marry when they're ready to start a family, and more and more, it is not financially feasible for people in their 20s to have children.

And then you get to people who really can't afford to marry, for a variety of reasons.

I'm not willing to say that 100% of people who cohabit rather than marry are doing it for economic reasons that they are entirely self aware about, but, yeah, the drastic increase in people in their 20s failing to settle down and instead bouncing from long term cohabitating relationship to long term cohabitating relationship while they try to nail down a job in their field and pay off enough student loans to consider buying a home or having children is a huge indicator of the economic changes of the last 40-50 years. And is a much more statistically and culturally significant narrative than this "entitled millennials won't leave the nest" garbage.
posted by Sara C. at 8:04 PM on January 17


Well, people in their 20s have shared housing to save costs for a long time now, although they're more likely to be doing so as a couple now than in the past. I agree that people in their 20s are much less likely to be thinking about marriage, although my impression is that it's mostly because they're no longer expected to 'settle down' as early and there's less pressure in that area (particularly on women) from society to do so. The student loan scenario is something I know of, but not much about because there are different arrangement here (interest free, no payments until earnings are over $51k) which don't seem to have the same negative impact on people's' lifestyle choices, but I can see how that would have an impact, although I don't see how it could be that drastic that people can't afford to get married. I can see how it would stop them from having their dream wedding and spending huge amounts of money on it, but that's not at all the same as saying they can't afford to get married. If people are not getting married because they refuse to do so in a way that fits within their means, that's not an economic decision, it's a lifestyle decision.

Even saying that it's not financially feasible to have children in your 20s doesn't hold a lot of water with me (acknowledging the lack of affordable health care in the US as another point of difference from here). Again, lots of people are delaying having children until they are more financially secure, but that doesn't mean it's not viable - again, it's a often a lifestyle choice, not an economic one.

I don't think the 'entitled millennials' has a huge impact on marriage rates, because it's almost a return to decades ago where people commonly went straight from living at home to living as a married couple. It's certainly not garbage though - maybe this is the difference in age talking, but I know many parents who are frustrated and amazed that their kids won't move out. At that age, I couldn't wait to leave home and most people I knew were the same. It's not the milenial's fault, though - it's their bloody parents that brought them up to expect that they can have whatever they want and, if they don't have the money, well just borrow it. So maybe there is something in what you say - because of their insistence on flash cars and expensive lifestyles, they carry record levels of debt so can't afford to leave the heavily subsidised environment of their parents' house. While the root cause is lifestyle choices, there is an economic impact at a personal level from those choices.
posted by dg at 9:20 PM on January 17


Well, people in their 20s have shared housing to save costs for a long time now, although they're more likely to be doing so as a couple now than in the past.

RTFA. "Other Arrangements" jumps from 6% in 1968 to 27% in 2013. It's very specifically not a thing that has just been happening forever. It's the most significant element of that chart, and one of the biggest changes actually documented in the article.

It's certainly not garbage though

Again, RTFA. The percentage of people 18-31 living in their parents' home has only gone up 4% since 1968.
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 PM on January 17


Actually, I did RTFA. What I didn't do was say that anything has been 'happening forever'. I said 'for a long time', referring to the 45 years in between those data points. Absolutely it is the most significant element, but there's no data on where all those percentage points have come from. It seems pretty likely to me that most of them come out of the 'married' bucket. Given that even the most casual observer of society would have realised that many more couples live together without the benefit of marriage now than they did in 1968, it doesn't seem unreasonable to conclude that the shift is not from people living alone, but is from people living together that are married. In fact, the number of people living alone has more than doubled. Therefore, far more people were able to afford their own place in 2012 than in 1968.

I think I mentioned that I RTFA already. Yes, the data shows that the percentage of those living with their parents has only increased marginally. What I should have mentioned in my comment is I have observed that more people towards the older end of that bracket are still living at home, which is not included in the data, but which is a significant shift in society. A 25 or 30 year-old living at home even 20 years ago would have been quite unusual, I believe. It's a pity the data doesn't break that down a bit more (but it isn't that always the case).
posted by dg at 10:24 PM on January 17


their insistence on flash cars and expensive lifestyles a college education and healthcare in an era where those costs rise while wages have stagnated for decades, they carry record levels of debt so can't afford to leave the heavily subsidised environment of their parents' house.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:37 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


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