National Edition

The national marriage age is increasing, but not for this group of people

Published: Sunday, July 13 2014 4:10 a.m. MDT

Conversely, the National Marriage Project found that "20-somethings who are unmarried, especially singles, are significantly more likely to drink to excess, to be depressed, and to report lower levels of satisfaction with their lives, compared to married 20-somethings.”

According to the "Knot Yet" report, men are less likely to put off marriage, given the choice. Men who get married in their 20s are more likely to have better financial success; early marriage has the opposite effect on women.

"These results are consistent with research that the responsibility ethic associated with marriage makes men, including 20-something men, harder, smarter, and better-paid workers," the report says.

They are religious

So, what distinguishes the minority of female millennials who want to marry at the same age their parents did?

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and one of the main authors of the Knot Yet report, has found that, while the national marriage age is increasing and the national marriage rate is decreasing, religious communities are continuing to support young, traditional marriage.

Women who married younger usually “are more religious and have a more domestic and child-centered orientation to their lives than their peers who are getting married later and have a different approach to family life and marriage,” he said.

Religious young women are also more likely to have children young and be stay-at-home moms, Wilcox said, because they are more likely to have been raised with traditional ideas of family.

Nashida Alam Chowdhury was a 20-year-old student at Northwestern University when she met her future husband. She wasn't looking to get married, but when he proposed soon after they started dating she knew it was the right thing to do.

"There is a custom in Islam that if Mohammed, the great prophet, says to do something, you do it," she said. "Well, he said, 'If a good suitor comes by, don't pass him up unless something is really wrong.' I felt comfortable saying yes, so I did."

Chowdhury's religious beliefs influenced her decision, but her instincts helped her know it was the right decision.

"I remember being so sure," she said. "And life has gotten a lot better. We have really grown together. I think if we'd gotten married when we were older, it would have been harder to align our goals."

Financial obstacles

One of the biggest factors driving later marriage, data show, is the economic advantage of waiting, especially for women.

“Women who wait to get married until their late 20s or early 30s tend to do better professionally than their peers who get married younger,” Wilcox said. 

For example, college-educated women who waited to get married until age 30 or later made around $18,000 more annually by their mid-30s than those who got married before the age of 20, according to the report.

Extensive debts incurred by obtaining a college education also factor into the delay of marriage, according to a study in Demographic Research, particularly for women.

"Our analysis shows that an increase of $1,000 in student loan debt is associated with a reduction in the odds of first marriage by 1 percent among college graduates," the report states.

But for Anna Ruch, a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho who married at age 20, and her husband, the financial burden of marrying young wasn't an insurmountable obstacle.

“We knew that, being married, our financial situation would be very different and we’d have to adjust and work things out together, but in our minds it was never a viable reason to not be together,” she said. 

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