Waiting to Marry: Marriage’s Effect on Happiness Levels and Income

dupage county family lawyersIt is an age-old question many people ask themselves: would I be better off in the long run if I waited a few years to get married? According to a recent study on the topic, the answer may be “it depends.” It depends on what an individual wants out of a marriage and who they are in terms of their age, gender, and education levels. Overall, couples tend to be happier in a marriage when they marry early, although couples make more money when they postpone marriage.  When they are broken down, the conclusions are a bit more nuanced. Ultimately though, some couples, no matter their age or income levels, may still choose to file for divorce.

Income Effects

According to the article, deciding whether or not to marry at all may have an effect on an individual’s income. Men report a 20 percent increase in earnings after marriage. Women, on the other hand, report no change or even a slight decline in earnings. When children come into the picture, there is a consistent financial penalty for married women who have children versus those who don’t.

Women

Studies reviewed in the article reported that most women who wait to get married tend to have significantly higher earnings. The income increase tends to rise in proportion with a woman’s education level. College graduates enjoy the highest wage increase. For college graduates age 33 to 35, those who married under age 20 earn on average $30,000 per year. Those who married between 24 and 27 make about $37,000 yearly, and those who married between ages 27 and 29 earn $45,000 yearly. Notably, women with less than a high school education do not report an increase in income the longer they wait to marry. Also interestingly, female college graduates who did not marry by age 35 earn about $53,000 yearly, making them the highest earning group of all women polled.

Men

In contrast to the statistics on females, men who marry before age 30 tend to earn more than their single and newly married peers. This effect tends to be fairly consistent regardless of the man’s education level, though there is some evidence to suggest men who are college graduates make the most money when they marry in their late 20s rather than early or mid-20s.  Interestingly, men between ages 33 and 35 who have not married earn $60,000 yearly on average, as compared to men who married just a few years earlier (after age 30), who earn just over $75,000 annually.

Happiness

Self-reported happiness scores with one’s marriage reflect a bell curve. Couples who marry in their mid-20s tend to be happier with their marriages than couples who marry later or earlier in life. Moreover, people in their 20s who are married tend to report less suffering from depression and being more satisfied with their lives.

None of the studies discussed above claim to demonstrate that one’s age at marriage directly causes one’s happiness or income. Instead, a lower marrying age merely tends to correlate to higher happiness scores and higher marrying age tends to correlate to higher income scores, at least for women. The actual psychological and sociological reasons for the relationships discussed are complex and still largely speculative.

Also, the trends discussed above are just that: trends. There are plenty of marriages out there that do not coincide with the trends discussed. At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we understand that each marriage and family situation comes with its own unique compilation of rewards and challenges. If you are planning a life change in Illinois, whether it be a marriage, having a new baby, or divorce, we encourage you to contact our DuPage County family law attorneys at (877) 889-4515 to discuss how to safeguard your assets and legal rights along the way.

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