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How Low Marriage Rates Affect the Economy

Marriage Rates at Record Low: Bad News For Economy

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Bride Wars. Bridezillas. Bridalplasty. Shedding for the Wedding. Platinum Weddings. Say Yes to the Dress.

If you flip through the channels, it looks like all of America is altar-bound.

But in fact, the Pew Research Center found that American marriage rates are at an all-time low: Only 51% of Americans over age 18 are married. Marriage rates have declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010 and 21 percentage points since 1960, when 72% of adults were married.

Are We Aging Out of Marriage?

It’s no surprise that things are very different today from only a few short years ago — see cell phones, laptops, tablets and the Facebook timeline. The big things are changing, too.

Half of men getting married for the first time are 29 years or older and half of women marrying for the first time are 27 or older, which means that many Americans are tying the knot well past age 30. Of course, the big 3-0 is getting younger and younger, so the news isn’t revelatory, but for reference, remember that Marie Antoinette married at age 14. In more recent history, Elizabeth Taylor’s first marriage took place when she was only 18.

Marriage and Money

So, what does all this have to do with money? A lot, it turns out.

First, married people tend to accumulate money. As Pew researcher and senior writer D’Vera Cohn explains in The Huffington Post, "Some of that might have to do with who chooses to get married, that is, people who are educated have less of a decline in their marriage rates than people who are less educated. We also know that the kind of partnership marriage encourages is one in which you plan for the future, share your assets, build wealth together. There isn’t that evidence yet for people who live together."

Second, beyond the married couple’s individual finances, their marriage affects the wider economy. Married people wait to make big purchases and investments until they’ve "settled down." Those purchases include houses, children, property . . . the big things that keep our economy spinning in a way that rent checks and vodka sodas can’t manage.

We're not saying that marriage will make you rich, or that opting out of the contract keeps you from being so. But research shows that marriage is good for our finances and good for the economy at large, so it follows that a decline in marriage rates isn’t exactly helping us climb out of the recession crater.

There goes the bride.

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