Where marriage fits in the modern world

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Data retrieved from Pew Research Center 2011.

More women are becoming mothers before they’re married.

In 1960, 4 percent of new mothers were unmarried, according to a Pew Research Center study. By 2011, that number had risen to 27 percent.

“It used to be that marriage was something young people did before they had sexual relations. That’s totally history now, of course,” said Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“It isn’t that marriage has gone out of style or people don’t want to be married, but they don’t think they have the economic stability to enter a marriage nor does their partner have the economic stability.”

Lina Watts, a 26-year-old single mother, didn’t marry her child’s father because of their “differences” and “disagreements on financial matters.”

Watts gave birth to her daughter two years after graduating from high school in 2014.

“I always thought I’d be married before having kids, but things don’t always happen the way we think,” Watts said.

The father of Watt’s daughter, Tamaj Rice, works in a family-owned liquor store in Flint.

“We didn’t get married for the same reason we don’t live together,” Rice said. “We both have bad tempers and we can’t agree on anything.”

Lina Watts and Tamaj Rice are pictured with their daughter Lily, who is now over a year old.

Courtesy of Lina Watts

Lina Watts and Tamaj Rice are pictured with their daughter Lily, who is now over a year old.

In the same study, Pew reported that among mothers of infants with high school education, 12 percent were married, while 8 percent were unmarried.

“Women tend to not want to marry men who don’t have stable jobs with stable income,” Risman said. “The economy has changed in America, and there aren’t as many jobs for the high-school educated men that the high-school educated women would marry.”

The number of children living in a two-parent household is 69 percent today, compared with 73 percent in 2000 and 87 percent in 1960, according to a Pew study.

“Middle-class educated women follow the societal script of getting married then having children because they have the ability to do that,” Risman said. “The men in their world are college-educated and have jobs.”

Ariel Townsend, an accounting  graduate of Grand Valley State University, is a married mother of a 3-year-old boy.

Townsend is married to Mike Clark, an engineering graduate of Northwood University.

“My husband graduated from college a couple years before me, and when he started working, we began considering marriage,” Townsend said.

The couple married in 2013 and had their son a year later.

Spouses Ariel Townsend and Mike Clark named their baby boy Todd.

Courtesy of Ariel Townsend

Spouses Ariel Townsend and Mike Clark named their baby boy Todd.

“I got married before having kids because I always felt that would be a better environment for my kids to grow up in,” Townsend said.

The Pew study also showed that of the 66 percent of mothers with some college or more, 52 percent were married.

“We have to think of choices as constrained. Any choice is not available to every person,” Risman said. ”People make the best choices they can make given their constrained situations.”