Couples meeting, marrying later in life, research says

(U-WIRE) If the annual flurry of greeting cards earlier this month left you pining for a valentine, you may not be as alone as you think. According to recent studies, the number of married couples who met in school, once the nation’s nuptial hunting grounds, is on the decline. Instead, young people are waiting longer to get married, meeting in post-grad venues like the workplace.

A 2006 survey of 2,985 adults by Harris Interactive found that only 14 percent of couples had met in school, compared to 18 percent who found each other in the workplace. The survey showed sharply different results from those found 15 years ago, when 23 percent of married couples reported meeting in the classroom and only 15 percent in the office.

This change may be rooted in the fact that young people are waiting longer to tie the knot. Figures by the U.S. Census Bureau show that the median age of marriage for men has risen from 24.7 in 1980 to 27.5 in 2006, and 22 to 26 years old in women.

Researchers said couples may be waiting longer to say “I do” for economic reasons. Young people “tend to see marriage as an event that should be postponed until they are financially prepared,” wrote David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-directors of the National Marriage Project, a research group at Rutgers University that publishes an annual “State of our Unions” report.

Others see the decision to put off marriage as a result of changing goals among undergraduates today.

“A lot of people want to develop a career before committing to marriage,” New York University sophomore Brian Alvelo said. “In college, there’s the pressure of getting good grades and doing well for the future.”

Another sophomore, Afrodite Fountas, attributed the change to a more general lack of preparedness among students.

“In college, people are still finding themselves and might not be mentally or financially ready for marriage,” Fountas said. “I’d say people are more cautious nowadays.”

Not everyone is prepared to give up on the quest to find marital bliss in the school yard. Some still take the more traditional route, like sophomore Shawn Francis, who met his fiancee Takeisha in high school. Francis sees his engagement as a welcome constant among the changes brought on by campus life.

“It’s a lot easier to focus if you come to college with someone,” said Francis, who plans to marry sometime after graduation.

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