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Statistics Show Delaying Marriage Hurts Families, Incomes

Not only are married men healthier and happier than their single peers, but statistics show they are also more financially successful.

“Becoming a husband means growing up, making a transition from prolonged semi-adolescence to true male adulthood,” says Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation and the author of a study exploring the relationship between marriage and poverty in America.

Holding other variables constant, men earn 0.9 percent higher wages for each year they are married. After being married for ten years, husbands earn 17 to 20 percent more than unmarried peers with the same characteristics.

These statistics reveal an economic phenomenon that economists have termed the marriage premium. Entering into marriage seems to cause men to be more productive and receive higher earnings, after controlling for variables such as the unemployment rate, age, race/ethnicity, education, and mother’s characteristics.

Men who delay or forego marriage lose out on the marriage premium. For each year that a man resists tying the knot, he falls further behind his married peers professionally and financially, sacrificing the significant bump in wages and productivity that he would have received otherwise.

The effect of the marriage premium on a man’s financial condition becomes more pronounced over time. After decades of receiving the 0.9 percent annual increase in wages that is caused by entering into marriage, married men are often making tens of thousands of dollars more per year than their single peers.

Even less-educated men benefit from the marriage premium. The marriage premium among married men with a high school diploma or less is at least $17,000. This helps substantiate conclusions from Brookings Institution researchers that indicate getting married is more effective in preventing and reducing poverty than getting more education.

Many millennials want to wed but are delaying marriage until they have achieved financial security. However, the marriage premium phenomenon seems to indicate that marriage allows for the financial security millennials are seeking.

Marriage also has a strong effect upon poverty. A 2003 study released by the Brookings Institution found that the poverty rate would be reduced from 13 to 9.5 percent if the marriage rate among families had remained unchanged from 1970 to 2001.

Why does the marriage premium exist? Married men are healthier and happier. They tend to live more stable lives, move less often, and demonstrate more responsibility. Their wives provide them with emotional support and professional advice, as well as support around the house. All of these characteristics make for better employees that are more productive at work and highly valued by employers.

The idea that young adults should pursue financial stability before getting married increases the likelihood of poverty and makes it more difficult for men to achieve financial success.  The marriage rate among millennials is significantly lower than previous generations, and fewer young adults are getting married than ever before. As long as this trend continues, men will continue to suffer from missing out on the marriage premium.

Men do better when culture promotes marriage. Families are more resilient when men are healthy, happy, and professionally successful – and marriage is the ideal first step.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and 2016 Research Fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington.  He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.