The article states dramatically: "Back then [30 years ago], the median age for an American woman to get married was 21. She had her first child at 22. Now it all takes longer. It’s 25 for the wedding and 25 for baby." Funny enough, the average age of first marriage for women in England between 1610 and 1730 was...25, the same as it was in Crulai, France, between 1674 and 1742. For men in both places, it was about 27. Later, in England, the average age of marriage dropped to about 23 for women, in the eighteenth century (thought to be due to increased wage-labouring in the industrial revolution). Now it has gone back up again. So all this broohaha is about a long term shifting pattern in age of marriage, which goes up slightly when the economy is not easy to establish a household in, and then drops slightly when it is. Meanwhile, Time is off talking to social scientists and think tank people who want to theorise about young people "reaping the fruit of decades of American affluence and social liberation" or "that whatever cultural machinery used to turn kids into grownups has broken down". But if they had talked to any historical demographer (or maybe even someone who has taken a first year university course in social history), they would have found out that a relatively late age of marriage has been a staple of Western European (and related countries) society for centuries. Interesting, Margaret Mead got it wrong in this 1953 article, which is understandable considering that the historical demography research which showed that marriage in the mid twenties was an ongoing phenomenon in North-Western Europe (but not Eastern or Southern Europe) was not conducted until the 1960s. (So she was right to contrast American marriage with other forms of European marriage, but it didn't originate in North America). So this is my historical demography public service announcement for the year (or decade or century) - People in Western Europe have been marrying at the age we do for at least 500 years, likely longer, and for the same reasons - had to buy a house, get a job, get some land, etc. And Time Magasine needs to get some frickin' historians into their rolodex.
People need to know more historical demography. This Time Magasine article [via mefi] is currently annoying a great many 20-something people because it seems to imply that they are choosing not to marry or settle down because they are immature. However, it annoys me more, because Time Magasine has apparently not even picked up a simple history textbook. If they had, they might have noticed that the current average age of marriage in Western European (and now North American) society has been moving back and forth between the early and late twenties for over 500 years.