Cycles in U.S. marriage and birth rates (7-11-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 11, 1941)

Background of news –
By editorial research reports

Reports from many sections of the country indicate that during the month of June – traditionally the month of brides – all previous records for numbers of marriages in the United States were broken this year. Many varied factors combined to boost the 1941 marriage rate.

Large numbers of young men just turned 21 no doubt sought to marry prior to their registration, July 1, for the draft in order to obtain preferential treatment. Some older men probably married for the same reason, where local draft boards have followed a course of giving sympathetic consideration to married men. Improved business conditions and the assurance of good jobs at high wages have encouraged many men to take on added responsibilities. Also, as a result of comparatively high marriage and birth rates during the early 1920s, unusually large numbers of young men and women have reached the normal age for marrying at this time.

The Census Bureau reports that 1940 – when the above factors were already at work – was a record year for numbers of marriages. Its report, shows that there were an estimated 1,500,000 marriages in the United States in 1940, indicating a marriage rate of 11.8 per 1,000 population, just 0.2 points under the all-time record of 12 per 1,000 established in 1920 when troops had been demobilized after World War I. Because the population was smaller in 1920, the total number of marriages in that year was smaller than in 1941 despite the higher rate for the earlier year.

A study of marriage and birth rates over a long period of years reveals that both are markedly affected by wars and economic changes. Each time there is a sharp change in marriage and birth rates, a 20-year cycle is set in motion. For example, a high marriage rate is normally followed by a high birth rate the next year, which in turn produces a large number of persons of marriageable age about twenty years later. The 20-year cycle is thereupon repeated until diluted or checked by other factors.

With the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917 and passage of the Draft Act, the marriage rate rose from 10.7 per 1,000 population in 1916 to 11.2 in 1917. In 1918, the marriage rate dropped to 9.7.

With the end of World War I and demobilization of the troops, thousands of postponed marriages were consummated, boosting the marriage rate to the record figure of 12.0 for 1920. In the following year, the birth rate jumped to 24.2, but thereafter resumed the downward trend which had been in evidence before the war.

The next marked change in marriage and birth rates came with the Depression of the 1930s. The marriage rate dropped from 10.1 in 1929 to 9.2 in 1930, 8.6 in 1931, and touched a low of 7.9 in 1932. Birth rates dropped from 18.9 in 1930 to 18.0 in 1931, 17.4 in 1932, and registered a low of 16.5 in 1933.

The country is at present experiencing the result of the marriage and birth rate cycle started by World War I.