Most unmarried Latinas over the age of 25 have heard that fateful question from their abuelitas at some point: “Mijita, y cuando tu te piensas casar?” (“Sweetie, when do you plan to get married?”) Generation after generation has accepted the pressure of getting married and having children by a certain age as a cultural norm. If that cousin you only see once a year remains unmarried too late in life (and by “late,” I mean 30 years old), she may be the subject of some unfounded family rumors.
However, this attitude seems to be shifting with the current generation of Latino 20-somethings. According to a recent research study conducted by Tr3s, the rate of young Latino adults who are walking down the aisle has declined significantly. In 2008, 34% of Latinos age 18 to 29 were married. This number was down to 24% in 2012, a 29% decrease. However, in their 30s, the rate of married Latinos jumps to 58%.
Why the disparity? Are Latino attitudes towards marriage and family shifting? The answer is no. In fact, quite the contrary is occurring. Young Latinos are entering college in record numbers and expressing high aspirations for career success, but they are also holding fast to the traditional ideals of marriage and family. These traditional viewpoints seem to be creating cautious attitudes in young Latino adults. They believe in marriage and value it, but also understand the inherent risk involved in committing one’s life to another person.
A Pew Research Hispanic Center report states that, while 89% of young Latinos hold career goals to be “very important in their lives,” only 48% say the same about getting married. However, this perspective changes as they get older. Marriage is seen as a monumental event not to be taken lightly. Considering the influence of the Catholic Church in the Latino culture, as well as the overarching concept that family comes first, the decision to get married is one that is given great weight and consideration. Another survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that among bilingual participants, 75% said it is better to live in their parents’ home until they get married. This concept is not a foreign one, as the Latino family structure calls for intergenerational family relationships that define much of our culture. As one Tr3s research study participant explained, “Finding someone worth leaving your parents for is tough.”
Are young adult Latinos behaving responsibly by establishing their careers before tying the knot, or are they simply delaying their development in order to spend a little longer at home? Everyone’s experience is different, but the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The responsibility of marriage and family can be daunting and should not be taken lightly. It is encouraging to see young adults entering marriage only after serious thought, planning and consideration. On the other hand, nothing beats mami’s home cooking, and leaving that comfort behind takes some serious commitment.
By Being Latino Contributor, Lissette Díaz. Lissette Díaz is a Cuban-American writer and attorney living and practicing law in New Jersey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.