Why has average age of first marriage increased?

In US, the average age for first marriage among men was 22.8, and among women was 20.3 years in 1960. In 2007 the average aged increased to 27.5 and 25.9 respectively. This trend is consistent in developed and rapidly developing societies.

Why are people waiting longer to get married?

A few decades back, a high school diploma would assure you a bank teller's job, and ensure a steady income till you retired. Men and Women joined the workforce relatively early. With rising income, and accessibility to higher education, labour markets have become more competitive. Educational qualification and grades have an increasingly greater impact on career success now.

Thus opportunity cost of marrying young has increased. Early marriage makes it harder to pursue college degrees. Also, people hope to marry someone prosperous, information of which is not available as soon it used to. For instance, a bank teller then had a well defined career track. Start working in late teens and progressive advance his career. However, now someone who does an MBA in his late 20s can expect to earn 20-30% higher than his peers.

Traditionally, one of the perceived benefits of marrying early was to pair up with an attractive partner before all the good ones are claimed. With higher income, education and mobility, the supply of potential suitors at a later age has also increased. So the opportunity cost of passing on an attractive partner early, is no longer that high.

Another perceived benefit of marrying early is ability to raise kids when at least one the parent is healthy and physically fit. However, with modern medicine, health care, longevity and child care, even these benefits have diminished.

To sum up, the opportunity cost of early marriage has been rising, while the potential benefits have been steadily falling. Thus, our cost-benefit reasoning supports the increasing average age of first marriage.

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