With more Americans shying away from marriage, indications are that the shift is attributable, at least in part, to economic decisions.
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The marriage rate has declined nearly 60% since 1970, according to The National Center for Family & Marriage Research, a trend that doesn’t surprise psychologist Dr. Jennifer Duffy, who says she sees couples grapple over finances in her practice all the time.
“Weddings were originally meant to get a couple off to a start instead of putting them in debt. Who can afford to spend money on a marriage when it can be used as a down payment for a house?” says Duffy.
CPA Clare Levison echoes the sentiment that there are growing incentives in staying single.
“Although many of our systems are designed to provide financial incentives to married couples, for example tax incentives and health-care coverage, there may be financial benefits to staying single,” she says. “As a single person, you have complete control over all of your assets. You decide how much to spend and how much to save and what to spend on and save for.”
With student loan debt topping a trillion dollars this year, Levison says that can also be a marriage deterrent.
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“With students graduating from college with more and more student-loan debt, and possibly credit card debt as well, they’re not really in a good financial position to do things like pay for a wedding, buy a home, or raise children,” she says.
Concerns over the broader economy in general play a role as well.
“We just saw 800,000 people leave the workforce and first-quarter GDP dropped. Who wants to get married if you aren’t even sure you’ll have a job?” says Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center.
For college-educated women with a job, however, postponing marriage until at least 30 can mean an additional $18,152 in annual income for those in their mid-30s, according to the National Marriage Project.
“Women today are no longer settling to be a stay at home mom. They’re educated, goal minded, and hungry to advance their own careers,” says Simon Financial President Saul Simon, who also sees a shift in the way young people are approaching marriage. “They realize the costs are high to live and maintain a certain lifestyle. They don’t want to be a burden to themselves or their parents.”
The Urban Institute says that since the trend is here to stay, society should be ready to adapt accordingly. “Marital status directly affects policies and programs such as tax rates, eligibility for entitlement programs, and the availability of social safety nets. A rapidly growing single population will bring significant changes in the needs, costs, and opportunities of many policies and programs— changes our nation can adapt to more successfully if it anticipates them.”