Economic Perspective: Economic Impacts of Delaying Marriage

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.


“Today’s program looks at the economic impacts of delaying marriage. Mike, many young people today are delaying marriage. Whereas in generations of the past marriage and partnering happened in a person’s early to mid 20s, today that age has been pushed to the 30s, or maybe even 40s. Does this choice any significant economic impacts on households?”


“Well there are many reasons why individuals, young people, are delaying marriage. One big reason is they’re in school longer. The other big reason is when they get out of school they’ve got some college debt they have to pay off. A reason we want to focus on here is many young people think, ‘Well I don’t want to get married or partner yet. I want to get my career established. I want to focus on that career, start earning some good money then I will think about getting married or partnering.’”

“And so we have research that just came out that looks at is it true that if you delay marriage you’re going to earn more over your lifetime, and the results I think are very, very interesting. There’s a big difference between the results of males and females. The study found that for the typical male delaying marriage really doesn’t help them in their earnings. They won’t earn any more in their lifetime whether they’re married or not at say age 20 versus age 30.”

“However for females, they found, in this study, that for every year a woman delays marriage, this is very interesting, for every year a woman delays marriage she will earn four percent more over her lifetime. So that means if she delays marriage by five years she’d earn 20 percent more. We don’t know why that’s the case. There may be many reasons there based on gender-pay gaps, et cetera, but that’s very, very interesting. And that’s probably a big motivator, primarily for young females. They maybe see this from older siblings or whatever and say, ‘Hey maybe if I wait, get a career, I build up my pay then I’ll get married.’ So this is a big economic factor work for delaying marriage.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.

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