The typical American family looks nothing like it did in the 1960s, and it's largely because of how differently millennials are doing things
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- The traditional nuclear-family structure no longer exists, reported Ellen Byron for The Wall Street Journal.
- It's been replaced with varying family arrangements for a variety of reasons, she wrote.
- It's largely because millennials are doing things differently than their parents: They're getting married later, or not at all, and contributing to the rise in multi-generational households.
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Today's American family is a modern one.
The traditional nuclear-family structure has dramatically evolved since the early 1960s, reported Ellen Byron for The Wall Street Journal. Children are no longer primarily raised in a single family-and-work arrangement, whereas two-thirds of American children in the 60s grew up in households with a married couple and male breadwinner, she wrote.
The reasons behind this shifting dynamic are many, according to Byron. But fueling this change are millennials, thanks to their differing perspectives from previous generations and the choices they're left making in the face of economic consequences.
Millennials are delaying marriage
Taking more time to find the right partner and prioritize financial success is causing many millennials to marry later in life when compared to previous generations. The median age of first marriage in the US in 2017, the most recent for which data is currently available, was 27 for women and 29 for men; in the 1980s, it was 22 and 25 respectively, according to the US Census Bureau.
More couples are cohabitating before marriage: There has been as much as a sixfold increase in the trend from their parents' generation, INSIDER's Kim Renfro reported in 2016. Some couples are even buying homes together before getting engaged, reflecting a generational shift in attitudes toward marriage and economic conditions - high housing prices make splitting a mortgage favorable.
But some millennials aren't marrying at all - an estimated 25% of millennials are likely to never marry. Marriage rates are declining as many millennials place less importance on marriage, Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist and relationship expert at Sussman Counseling, previously told Business Insider.
The exception, according to Byron, is same-sex couples: more are marrying after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
Millennials are contributing to the rise in multigenerational households
Multigenerational households are also on the rise: The percentage of the US population living in multigenerational households has increased from 12% in 1980 to 20% in 2016, Byron wrote, citing data from the Pew Research Center.
Millennials are also more likely to live at home than their parents did at their age. More than 35% of millennials still live with their parents, according to the 2018 Country Financial Security Index. Doyle Williams, an executive vice president at Country Financial, said this gives them time to build an emergency fund, save for a down payment, and focus on the long-term goals that can help millennials build financial independence.
Beyond that, some millennials are moving back home to take care of their parents, reported Clare Ansberry of The Wall Street Journal. According to a 2018 AARP Public Policy Institute report, Ansberry wrote, about 6.2 million American millennials and counting are acting as caregivers for a parent, in-law, or grandparent.
But there are also other reasons at play in the changing dynamics of the American family. As Byron wrote, grandparents are taking in grandchildren as a result of the opioid crisis, and more families are ethnically and racially diverse.