Bourgeois is back!

It’s the Morning After the cultural revolution, argues Kay Hymowitz in City Journal. The Millenial generation, scarred by divorce, is turning toward more conservative values, she writes.

Yessiree, family values are hot! Capitalism is cool! Seven-grain bread is so yesterday, and red meat is back!

Wave away the colored smoke of the Jackson family circus, Paris Hilton, and the antics of San Francisco, and you can see how Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with “alternative values.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly during the 1990s, the culture began a lumbering, Titanic turn away from the iceberg, a movement reinforced by the 1990s economic boom and the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the last ten years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled. Today Americans are consciously, deliberately embracing ideas about sex, marriage, children, and the American dream that are coalescing into a viable —though admittedly much altered — sort of bourgeois normality. What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.

Juvenile crime and drug and alcohol abuse are down. The teen pregnancy rate is down dramatically; more high school students are waiting to have sex. In polls, teen-agers praise their parents and say they share their values.

In fact, when it comes to families, this generation is as mushy as a Hallmark card. A Harris Interactive survey of college seniors found that 81 percent planned to marry (12 percent already had) at a mean age of 28. Ninety-one percent hope to have children —and get this: on average, they’d like to have three. The 2001 Monitoring the Future survey found 88 percent of male high school seniors and 93 percent of females believing that it is extremely or quite important to have a good marriage and family life. In a survey of college women conducted by the Institute for American Values, 83 percent said, “Being married is a very important goal for me.” Over half of the women surveyed said they would like to meet their husbands in college.

. . . Generational backlash counts for a lot: what we’re seeing now is a rewrite of the boomer years. The truth is, Gen Xers and Millennials have some real gripes about the world their boomer parents constructed. When a 1999 Peter D. Hart Research Associates poll asked Americans between the ages of 18 to 30 what experience had shaped their generation, the most common answer was “divorce and single-parent families.” Growing up in the aftermath of America’s great marriage meltdown, no wonder that young people put so much stock in marriage and family, their bedrock in the mobile twenty-first century.

As they say: Read it all.

Via Number 2 Pencil.

About Joanne


  1. There are some people at Gene Expression and Samizdata who must be ecstatic to hear this. A younger demographic, and ultimately a larger population, of mainstream Americans will presumably result in a shift in world socio-political economics.

  2. They should survey the kids again after the Ritalin wears off and they’ve been away from their overbearing parents for a few years.

  3. boo – Are you saying that in reference to the survey of college seniors? If you ask me, they already have been away from their parents for a few years. And it’s not entirely impossible to make one’s own decisions even with parents around. Geez, give us some credit.

  4. Caddie,
    The survey of college seniors only indicated attitudes to marriage. That most planned to be married by 28 is probably more an indication of idealism (these people probably think they’ll all find soul-mates or something by then) than conservatism.

  5. Sean Kinsell says:

    I don’t know, boo. I can only cite anecdotal evidence, but as a ’95 college grad, I can say pretty confidently that most of the people I knew expected to marry between 30 and 35 at the earliest, with the same that’s-how-long-it’ll-take-to-find-my-soulmate criterion you refer to.

    That was pretty much the unarticulated assumption of the writing of the mid-90’s, too, I think. (Happily, there were four weddings among my fifteen or so closest friends before we all left our 20’s.) Whether it’s more “idealistic” to figure you’ll be married at 28 or that you’ll find your ideal partner at 35, I’m not prepared to say. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see convincing evidence that college seniors now don’t want to go through the endless machinations, misgivings, and cutesy game-playing their parents did before settling down.

  6. Richard Cook says:

    Boo just had a bad childhood and is projecting.

  7. Maybe this is how the kids are rebelling, by being more conservative than their parents. But I believe it is genuine. I’m in my mid 20’s and have been married for over a year. Most of my friends from high school and college are already married, and many of them already have children. Most of them are like me and grew up in single parent homes. We know how tough it is on a person to raise a child by themselves. Is it any wonder then that people like us would look foward to the proscpect of stability and happiness offered in a good marriage?