The median age of marriage for men and women is rising slowly into the high-20s. But that’s not so unique compared to men’s historical averages. What is new — really, really new — is the rising marriage ages for women.
The education revolution for women — one of the happiest trends of the 20th century — carries important implications for the marriage market. First, if women are going to college, more of their 18-22 years will be taken up by history classes rather than husbands. Second, when these women start earning money, fewer need to marry for financial reasons, which means they can afford to put off marriage. Thanks to birth control, a little bit of biotechnology has helped their cause by reducing the costs of being sexually active and single…
If twentysomethings are responsible for inspiring “end of marriage” talk, let’s praise seniors for keeping the institution alive by staying alive. As the graph above shows, today’s Americans aged 60 and higher are as likely to be married as any other generation before them at that age. In fact, those over 65 are now more likely to be married as those in their 20s — a moment that is unique in history. Adults are living longer, having fewer children, divorcing at a higher rate, and finding new partners, Stevenson and Wolfers write.
The graph above is a deceptively simple picture that says a lot about how the institution of marriage has changed in the last 130 years. First, it shows how unusually early twentysomethings married around 1960. This suggests that comparisons to that generation imply an exaggerated collapse. Second it shows that, at every age up to 60, today’s Americans are less likely to be hitched than any generation before them. Third, it suggests that seniors are marrying close to their age. The shrinking gap between the ages of husbands and wives that helps to explain why couples are more likely to sort within their income group. Finally, it implies that even with rising divorces, the market for re-marriages is strong.