Why Your “Normal” Family Is Actually Really Weird

People reading this likely consider themselves normal, or even average. But changes in the average lifestyle have led to major deomgraphic differences in terms of living arrangements and marital status. Believe it or not “normal” and “average” looks MUCH different today than it did even 50 years ago. Here are a few big changes that have occurred.

We get married later in life. 

In 1950, median marriage age was 20 for women and 24 for men. Those numbers have jumped to 27 for women and 29 for men, respectively. So what happened? Well, a lot of it may have to do with increasing gender equality. As more women have pursued higher education, they have also taken a more prominent role in the workforce. The fact that marriage age is higher is probably a good thing, and allows people more time to invest in themselves and marry at a more financially stable and independent period of life.

More young men live at home than ever before.

Interestingly, not all demographic trends are clear indicators of societal development and economic prosperity. For example, the number of young adults between 18 and 24 living with their parents has remained pretty stable. However the number of 25–34 year-old men living at home has almost doubled since 1960. It’s hard to say for sure what caused this. Some might say the Great Recession and declining job opportunities have made men more economically dependent. It’s also possible that this generation is simply more risk averse or it may just be personal preference. It’s hard to say for certain but this increase of almost 10% is a big change from 1960.

Far more of us live alone than ever before.

One final observation: the percentage of single-person households has gone from about 7% in 1960 to 35% now. That’s probably the most dramatic demographic shift of the three. In some ways, this might be related to the first trend I identified. As men and women wait longer to get married, they spend more time earning a living and being independent. Some couples may co-habitate longer before marrying, but certainly lots of individuals just wait longer to take on serious relationships too. I think this is the most neutral of facts. In some ways it indicates increased independence which is good. But there’s also the possibility this forebodes of the loneliness and isolation that come with prioritizing work over relationships.

It’s hard to know what explains these changes. Additionally, it’s hard to say whether the changes are good or bad. However, we can be sure that “normal life” is changing, and that change will only continue.