Matthew Henry Young: Don’t Wait for Economic Stability to Marry!


Rhode Islanders are marrying with less frequency, and waiting longer to get married. According to data compiled in the 2014 American Community Survey, Rhode Island has the 3rd highest median age of first marriage for women (29.4 years old) and the 6th highest median age for men (30.5). Why do Rhode Islanders marry so late? It may have something to do with their financial status: “Nearly three-fourths of younger survey participants said that financial security should preface marriage” writes Gillian B. White in The Atlantic.

I share the concerns of many of my millennial peers. The idea of marriage — and taking responsibility for a spouse and potentially a mortgage and children — sounds terrifying. A struggling economy and weak job market only exacerbate that hesitance. Like most of my peers, I’d like to enjoy financial security prior to marriage. However, these concerns were not as serious obstacles to previous generations. In the same Atlantic article, White observes that “only 55 percent of older Americans felt similarly.”

Perhaps surprisingly, marriage could be a precursor to our financial security, instead of the other way around. Plentiful research seems to show that where stable marriages prevail, poverty rates fall. The addition of children to the mix only accentuates the effect: In Rhode Island, single-parent households with children are four times as likely to fall below the poverty line as married-couple households.

There are many explanations for the phenomenon: Marriage can provide emotional support for both partners, a possible second income, and more-diverse job opportunities. Further, marriage provides many real world savings opportunities such as tax reductions, as well as reduced costs of rent and household items, thanks to cohabitation.

Stable family life and culture is directly tied to economic prosperity — the driving conclusion of the Family Prosperity Index, a research project of husband-and-wife team Wandy Warcholik, Ph.D., and Scott Moody, M.A. The connection between marriage and poverty, as well as many other social and economic indicators, is shown clearly in their research. Rhode Island rates poorly on both social and economic measures, while states like Utah enjoy both financial prosperity and a strong family culture.

This popular myth is busted: You don’t have to wait until you’re financially stable to get married! In fact, marriage may provide the support and security that could boost you — and your spouse — to financial stability. Plus, you get to be with the one you love. Why wait?

  • Lance Wilson

    Higher Divorce Rates

    divorce/single parent childbirth = more children raised by mothers and
    the hypothesis this has certain impacts of male behavior (less likely to
    achieve) and females (more likely to achieve and not rely on a partner)

    Greater reproductive freedom (both in avoidance and ability to time)

    Increasing wage premium for college degree (note demographics of college attendance by gender after the GI bill decade)

    Higher male incarceration rates (especially in black community – see point below from Census and ACS reports)

    Americans age 35 and older were more likely to be married than White
    Americans from 1890 until sometime around the 1960s. Not only did they swap places during the 60s but in 1980 the number of NEVER married African Americans began a staggering climb from about 10% to more than 25% by 2010 while the percentage for White women remained under 10% and just over 10% for White men

    Decrease in labor market barriers for women (goes hand in hand with college enrollment) along with *increasing* implicit penalties for child birth (FMLA for example that all other things equal makes a female worker, even with birth control options, more expensive, ceteris paribus)

    It’s not surprising marriage is occurring later, it’s simply a rational economic effect, especially by females, from the various changes that have occurred.

    “In fact, marriage may provide the support and security that could boost
    you — and your spouse — to financial stability. Plus, you get to be
    with the one you love. Why wait?”

    Actually, the economic prediction would be the delay in marriage should lead to a drop in the divorce rate and thus the increasing lifetime expectations for financial stability. And no offense, but increasingly it’s easier to “be with the one you love” without getting married..

    Plus Utah is hardly a fair benchmark – the LDS faith encourages early marriage and discourages divorce..and although Utah does in fact have a middle of the road divorce rate, it also has a high remarriage rate because of the empahsis on being married, especially in LDS.