Marriage, kids not on top of mind for most urban Indians, finds survey

Traditional views are gradually waning in urban India, indicating a significant social shift in attitude over marriage, family and parental responsibilities.
Traditional views are gradually waning in urban India, indicating a significant social shift in attitude over marriage, family and parental responsibilities.


  • Respondents to the latest YouGov-Mint-CPR survey were split on whether ageing parents should live with their children: half said they should, half don’t see a pressing reason

Evolving lifestyles have sparked notable shifts in the attitudes of urban Indians over marriage, family and parental responsibilities. Traditional views are gradually waning in urban India, suggests the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey, indicating a significant social shift that could shape India’s upcoming journey as the most populous nation on earth.

Just a quarter of the respondents surveyed rated marriage as very important (score of 4 out of 4) for them personally, while about 40% rated it not important at all (score of 1 out of 4). The unpopularity of marriage was driven by post-millennials and millennials, both married and single ones alike. A majority in each of these groups gave marriage a score of 1 or 2 out of 4. However, most married pre-millennials still rate marriage as important to them.

Post-millennials are those who were born after 1996, while pre-millennials were born before 1980.

Also read: The population puzzle: what Indians feel

The latest survey, held in June 2023, had 10,072 respondents from over 200 cities and towns. It was the 10th round of a biannual survey jointly conducted by YouGov India, Mint and Centre for Policy Research (CPR).

When asked about having one’s own biological children, 24% of the respondents rated it very important to them, and one-third said it was not important at all. However, in line with traditions, only 19% of respondents said staying as a nuclear family unit was very important to them, while 34% said it was not an important idea.

Women were somewhat more likely than men to rate marriage and having biological children as important, but on the other hand, they were also substantially more likely to find value in a nuclear family set-up.

Among married individuals, reduced personal freedoms were the topmost reason for rating marriage as less important, followed by lack of financial stability. Among those who were not married, a lack of financial stability was the biggest reason for not being ready for marriage, followed by a fear of losing personal freedom.

One deterrent to marriage was the scepticism towards the institution of marriage itself, with 9% considering it irrelevant or outdated.

Also read: Over 40% urban Indians indifferent to 'most populous' tag

On expected lines, pre-millennials, or those born before 1980, were the most likely to rate having children as important.

The survey also asked respondents how many children they want to have in total—including the ones they already may have or plan in the future. Around one in 10, primarily post-millennials, said they had not thought about it yet or were not sure. Among the others, 46% said they would like to have two children, 30% said one, and 13% said three or more. Around 12% said they don’t want children.

Among the ones who see children as a part of their lives, half gave the reason as a way of finding fulfilment and meaning through family life. Pre-millennials and women were more likely to give this as a reason. But having children is a very conscious choice: just 12% of those who had or wanted kids said they hadn’t thought about a reason and see it as an obvious part of life.

Also read: Urban Indians want to keep diversity away from family

Moving forward, individuals' personal choices trump social customs when we think of the future of the family as an institution, said 48% of the respondents. Women (51%) are more likely to say so than men (46%). Respondents from the younger cohort (those born after 1990) are a lot more likely to say so. However, people born before 1980 are more likely to believe that the functioning of a family should be a collective unit based on social values and customs.

Also read: Climate risk finds high awareness in urban India: Survey

Despite just 38% of respondents valuing a nuclear family, more than half (51%) think that elderly parents needn’t live with their children: 23% said elderly parents should still get emotional and financial support from children, and 29% said parents should be independent enough so that children can also lead independent lives. The rest (49%) said it is the duty of every child to live with and care for their parents in their old age. Women were slightly more likely (29%) than men (27%) to want elderly parents and adult children to be independent entities.

This is one of four parts in a data journalism series based on the YouGov-Mint-CPR survey held against the backdrop of India becoming the world’s most populous country. Read all the parts here and the summary piece here.

Note that 84% of our respondents were relatively well-to-do netizens, falling under the NCCS-A socio-economic category of consumers. (The NCCS, or New Consumer Classification System, is based on the consumer durables owned by a household and the education level of the main wage earner.) However, 45% of those who earn and revealed their income make less than 30,000 a month.

The questionnaires, raw data and methodology for all 10 rounds of the biannual survey can be found here.

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