Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Generation Y To Parenthood: Thumbs Up

Column Quick Summary
  • Echo Boomers dislike marriage.
  • Echo Boomers list being a good as more important than a successful marriage.
  • Echo Boomers don't see marriage as a prerequisite for parenthood.
  • Expect cultural messages toward Echo Boomers to adjust to these socioeconomic changes.

I've written that Generation Y dislikes marriage, although the Millennial generation likes cohabitation, divorce, hooking up and serial monogamy. Yet even as marriage rates significantly drop among Echo Boomers, what do Echo Boomers think about parenthood and how it relates to the traditional family? Pew research reviewed these views among the Millennial generation and some of its findings were surprising. For instance, 52% of Echo Boomers said that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life, whereas only 30% of Echo Boomers listed having a successful marriage as one of the most important things in life. The 22% gap among Generation Y differed from the 7% gap in Generation X. Traditionally speaking, marriage and family were linked and I doubt past generations would have seen a dichotomy.

Research Error I do not know what Pew asked specifically; if there were options, people could answer however they wanted, or whether they made someone choose one or the other. However, studies like this can imply inaccurate information to readers. For instance, if a surveyor called me and asked, "What would you say is one of the most important things in life?" I would list neither marriage nor parenthood. However, if a researcher asked, "What is more important to you, marriage or parenthood?" I would respond, "Why is it either/or?" I couldn't find the gender breakdown of this Pew study (in the PDF file), but I wonder which gender stated what and how the question was asked. After reviewing it a few times (which is why I've avoided extensive discussion on this topic), I think Pew did a poor job with this study. That, or they failed to discuss their findings with readers in a comprehensive manner.
This study provides some light as to why Echo Boomers don't see the need to marry. Echo Boomers don't see marriage as a requirement for parenthood (consider that a third of Echo Boomers are single parents). In the past, people saw marriage as a prerequisite to becoming a parent, but now the spouse is optional.

I would also point out that there's some appeal to being a single parent: you can control how you raise your kids without the conflict of other input. Many female single parents who were Echo Boomers mentioned this as something they enjoyed about being a single parent as I had conversations with Echo Boomers. Even to this day, when I meet female single parents, they tend to list "more control" as a benefit to parenting without marriage.

While this may seem like FYI news, recognize how this changes marketing. If 33% of Echo Boomers are single parents, why would you only advertise to families? If your products are for kids, you should market to the appropriate audience. Also, recognizing that parenthood has a higher importance than marriage now, focus on investing in industries that capitalize off of parenthood, and not on industries that capitalize off marriage. We'll see lower engagement rings sell, yet products to children and parents will explode.