The median age at first marriage for women has increased from 21 in 1973 to 25.3 in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Today, more American women look at marriage as a “capstone” rather than a “cornerstone;” that is, something they do after they have their career, education and financial goal on the right track, rather than as a foundation for launching into parenthood and adulthood. There are several reasons why women decide to delay marriage.
Delaying marriage allows a woman more time to focus on, and complete, her education. Also, a decision to pursue higher education means investing more finances in college and pushing other life events such as getting married to a later age. For instance, statistics by the U.S. Bureau of Census on fertility for women ages 40 to 44 years in 2008 indicate that a woman with a graduate or professional degree had 1.6 children, compared to a woman who didn’t graduate from high school who had 2.5 children. Some women also want to establish their financial security through advanced education before settling down with a partner.
Women, just like men, choose to pursue their careers because they want to stay competitive in their professions. With an increasingly competitive job market, some women may opt to build a name in their industries before settling down to a relationship that commits them to marital obligations and duties such as having babies. Some women also believe that the good they build through a profession is their ultimate legacy, according to Author Melanie Notkin in her book, "Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids."
Some women choose to delay marriage so that they can enjoy personal freedom. Time alone allows them to travel, pursue personal interests and postpone having children. The commitment and responsibilities that come with getting married might deter a woman who prefers to experience life more alone before committing to a life-time partner. For example, a woman who wants to pursue an entrepreneurial dream may need to travel a lot during its early stages, or may not be ready to involve a partner in her business decisions yet. Women who were hurt in past relationships might also prefer to spend time alone to heal and resolve emotional issues before committing to marriage.
More people are opting to cohabit first before getting married. Over 7.5 million unmarried couples lived together in 2012, compared to 450,000 in 1960, as noted in an April 14, 2012 article published in "The New York Times." The article also notes that a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that almost two-thirds of Americans view cohabitation as a step toward marriage. Couples can have differing levels of commitment -- and cohabiting gives them an opportunity to work on those differences rather than just opting for marriage or opting out of the relationship.