Sunday, April 27, 2008

Age at marriage: The conventional wisdom is that the later you marry, the more likely that the marriage will last. This idea stems more from elite rejection of the 1950s model of family life than it does the research. (Research shows that teen marriages are the ones at risk).

Getting married while young is now considered low-class. By contrast, a long stretch of lies, used people, broken hearts, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions is a sign of enlightenment.

Tens of thousands of Americans have been asked about their age and marriage and their current marital status by the General Social Survey. I divided people into groups based on age at marriage, and looked at marital statuses after at least 20 years had passed:

Percent in each category

Married in teens
Married 58.9
Divorced/separated 19.9
Widowed 21.2

Married between ages 20 and 24
Married 68.2
Divorced/separated 13.6
Widowed 18.2

Married between ages of 25 and 29
Married 69.2
Divorced/separated 11.2
Widowed 19.6

Married between the ages of 30 and 34
Married 65.7
Divorced/separated 11.0
Widowed 23.3

Married between the ages of 35 and 39
Married 57.9
Divorced/separated 10.4
Widowed 31.7

Married between the ages of 40 and 44
Married 56.9
Divorced/separated 11.1
Widowed 32.0

The benefit that is gained by waiting is gained by your early 20s. The chance of being divorced or separated is roughly the same for everyone else, and the rate of widowhood is higher for those who married late.

Many of those who married later had failed cohabitation experiences which would add to the rate of relationship failures if they were counted.

Which reminds me of another research finding that contradicts the modern attitude toward family formation: people who cohabit before marriage are more, not less, likely to get divorced.


  1. Re: people who cohabit before marriage more likely to divorce.

    I have always questioned this one. Has anyone ever studied whether or not these particular "marriages" were in fact last ditch efforts to save already failed cohabitation relationships?

    It's my sense that most of them are, but its mostly intuitive and based in my own and anecdotal age mate experience

  2. Did the GSS look only at first marriages? It seems likely that a big percentage of the people getting married after age 35 or 40 already have been married and divorced, and it also seems likely that an already-divorced person is at higher risk of getting divorced once again.

  3. peter: They ask about age at first marriage only.

  4. Anonymous2:05 PM

    This seems obvious to me. People who meet their spouse in their late teens or early 20s, then get married in their mid- to late-20s have someone with whom they truly can build a life together. By the time they reach their 40s or 50s, they have years of memories and shared experiences that (usually) enrich and strengthen their relationship. By contrast, people who wait until their 30s or 40s to get married (like many of my friends) already have lived much of their life without their future spouse. So many of life's important moments were experience with other people (and other lovers). People who wait have a much, much harder time "building" a life with their spouse, because they already have built their life alone or with someone else. The deep bonds just aren't there, and won't be there until they are in their 50s and 60s. Ugh.

    Putting off pair-bonding beyond the late 20s is a huge mistake, especially for women.

    American Patriot


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