Marriage Rates Down, Cohabitating Rates Up: It's Not Just Student Debt To Blame

Young adults delay marriage longer than ever. Student debt is a key reason.

A St. Louis Fed study shows As Fewer Young Adults Wed, Married Couples’ Wealth Surpasses Others’.

Since the 1960s, the median age at first marriage has steadily increased for both women and men. The last three decades were no different for young adults: The age at first marriage went from 26.2 for men and 23.8 for women in 1989 to 29.5 and 27.4, respectively, in 2016. As marriage rates decline in young adulthood, more young adults are choosing to cohabitate (reside with an unmarried partner) and are doing so at earlier ages. The increase in unmarried partnered young adult couples is evident. The share of married households dropped steadily from around 57 percent in 1989 to 37 percent by 2016, while partnered households grew from about 7 percent to 21 percent.

Wealth Effect

(Click on image to enlarge)

As the share of married young adult households declines, their median net worth (both total and when omitting housing-related assets and debts) has remained consistently higher than that of single households. From 1989 to 2016, the typical married household had around three times as much wealth as a partnered or single household.

Student Loan Debt Is Widespread across Young Households’ Balance Sheets

The shifting share of married versus unmarried young adult households is also associated with changes in the composition of debt. This shift is most pronounced when examining the rise of student loan debt. Recent research suggests that growth in student debt levels is associated with marriage delays or avoidance. This suggests that young adults increasingly feel that their debt is an economic barrier to transitioning to adulthood and forming a family.

(Click on image to enlarge)

In 2013, the share of young adult households with student loan debt, 42.1 percent, surpassed the credit card debt rate, 40.1 percent, for the first time. By 2016, 46 percent of young adult households had student loan debt, triple the 1989 percentage.

1 2
View single page >> |
How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience. Users' ratings are only visible to themselves.

Comments

Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.