Are There Gains to Delaying Marriage?

The Effect of Age at First Marriage on Career Development and Wages

by David S. Loughran, Julie Zissimopoulos

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Age at first mariage has risen dramatically since the mid-1960s among a wide spectrum of the U.S. population. Researchers have considered many possible explanations for this trend. Few, though, have asked why individuals should want to delay marriage in the first place. One possibility is that early marriage inhibits the career development of one or both individuals in a marriage. This hypothesis is tested using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Using panel data methods that exploit longitudinal variation in wages and marriage timing, the authors estimate that delaying marriage increases hourly wages of women by nearly four percent for each year they delay. Marriage timing has no impact on the wages of men. They find that delaying marriage may have costs as well. All else equal, women who delay marriage marry spouses with lower wages.

This research was supported by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and conducted by RAND Labor and Population.

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