Single people are free to take more economic risks than married people. It makes me wonder if there is a correlation between the average age of marriage in a particular area and its economy.

My hypothesis is that places where marriage happens early, by custom or religion, will also be the places with the slowest rate of development. In such places there might be fewer entrepreneurs and everyone would take fewer risks.

Exceptions would abound since economies are influenced by many factors, so if there is a correlation it would be on average and not apply to every region. And obviously the causation could work the other way too; a good economy provides the option of staying single longer.

On a similar theme, easy access to divorce, and a high divorce rate, might also contribute to entrepreneurial energy. And again this could work both ways because a risk-taking spouse is probably more likely to get a divorce.  

Name three vibrant entrepreneurial countries where people also marry young.

UPDATE: Reader Brant provides a link to statistics that support this hypothesis:


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Mar 14, 2009
Better economy, more economic freedom for women. More economic freedom for women, less marrying out of sheer hanging-on survival, desperation born of poverty.


Not personal experience, since I never married at all by choice. Ha. But empathy's there for people desperate to survive. (Empathy's not there for dumb broads who are just crapping themselves to et married. Different things.)
Mar 6, 2009

Wow. What can I say -- except to say that you are absolutely correct -- your marriage and economics theory is much more convoluted than I first imagined. I am simply not capable of commenting intelligently on anything that complex.

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Mar 6, 2009
Webster: You completely misinterpreted what I said. In fact, you've butchered my premise so much, I can't even tell what it is that you think I was saying.

Let's try again.

Someone posted that, on average, married men earn more than single men.

I am saying that high earners are _more likely to (eventually) end up getting married and staying that way_, because they have both a comparative AND competitive advantage over lower earners - namely, that it is an irrational decision to become legally linked to someone who is poor. That's just a cold, hard reality of our overly materialistic society.

This would raise the question, why, then, do the impoverished not even things out? Well, despite it being a rational decision to pool resources in times of hardship -- money is usually the #1 problem in relationships. And it's almost certainly a much bigger problem and bigger fight when nobody actually has any money -- thus destabilizing more of those relationships. (Also, it's an average, not a median -- so there may be some statistical trickery at play here, too.)

This all doesn't mean that low/middle earners do not WANT to be attractive, but they have to be attractive in some other way (not everyone can just run out and get a high-paying job), and like it or not, in the USA, money talks, so their flaws are less easily glossed over, most likely reducing their rate of marriage, as their dating pool is smaller - and more volatile.
Mar 3, 2009

So let me make sure I understand your theory, Drazen.

You believe that married men earn more than single men because married men wish to be attractive to ... their wives ... or possibly women that they are not married to?

And, in contrast, single men earn less than married men because ... they are somehow less interested in being attractive to women?

Sorry to ask you this favour in such a hash way ... but would you mind thinking these things through before you post a comment?

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Mar 3, 2009
Correlation != causation.

Of course married men will earn more -- earning more will make them more desirable as husbands! Especially in the U$A.

Similarly, marriage is more attractive in an economically depressed area because 2 people can pool their resources and it eases the burden significantly. Although I enjoy living alone, it is vastly more expensive than the times that I lived with someone, as I'm effectively paying double what I did for most basic needs (rent, utilities) when there were 2 incomes.

Of course, in expensive places, you almost have to pool your resources to afford anything... I'm not sure how that factors in.
Mar 2, 2009
Scott, I'll give you the opposite. Where people get married late, and there is no entrepreneurship (generally speaking) - Singapore!
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Mar 2, 2009
Well as some one has pointed out Gujaratis and Marwaris in India get married early, but they are risk takers since the society encourages risk taking, and enterpreneurship. (The same way society encourages arranged marriages within the community, to maintain social trust between families)

And well Americans get married earlier than europeans, but then I think America is more entrepreneurial than Europe.

And I have met many entrepreneurs who chucked cushy jobs to take the plunge as they had the support of an earning spouse. (both men or women)

As for married men earning more, I think the argument is otherway round.
Men who earn more are more likely to get married as they would find lots of women attracted to them.

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Mar 2, 2009
Many kids do not go to college because they got into a relationship (in high school), they either get married early or move out to live with a girlfriend/boyfriend, in this case, the parents do not want to pay for their college.

They would tend to have kids early, the burden of supporting family prevents them from aggressive career choices. Women would have even bigger problem if they marry early or have kid early.

A person I know went to an ivy college where all students there, both genders, focus on their education and career, almost no one wants a relationship. This bright group will wait until they finish grad school and have solid career before they get married.
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Mar 2, 2009
In India, we have the Gujarati and the Marwari communities where child marriage used to be the norm. These two communities have produced the most number of entrepreneurs in India.
Mar 2, 2009
Further to my post on the higher average income statistics associated with married men, here is an interesting article on the married/single income gap ...

Source: New York Times, 2004, Analysing the Marriage Gap
By Hal Varian

... To drive this point home, suppose Hamlet is considering proposing to Ophelia, but is consumed with doubts.

"To be married or not to be married, that is the question."

If the causal theories are correct, then if Hamlet proposes and Ophelia accepts, his future wages would be higher on average than if he stayed single. If the correlation theories are correct, then choosing to marry would have no effect on Hamlet's future wages, and he may as well remain single.

Recently two economists, Kate Antonovics and Robert Town of the University of California, San Diego and the University of Minnesota, respectively, have come up with a clever way to decide between the causal and the correlation theories. Their paper, "Are all the good men married? Uncovering the sources of the marital wage premium," was published in the May 2004 issue of The American Economic Review.

Their approach is based on looking at monozygotic, or identical, twins. The authors argue that twins have the same genetic endowment and (usually) the same upbringing. Since twins have the same underlying physical and mental capabilities, they should have similar productivity. Even if employers are biased toward certain irrelevant characteristics, monozygotic twins should be affected by such biases equally.

Hence differences in wages between married and unmarried twins should control for most of the effects that might cause a spurious marriage-wage correlation. If a married twin has a higher wage than his single brother, the difference is probably caused by marriage, not just correlated with it.

The economists drew on a unique dataset, the Minnesota Twins Registry, which tracked most twins born in Minnesota between 1936 and 1955. In the mid-1990's, the Registry sent the twins a questionnaire asking about their socioeconomic status.

Using this data, the researchers were able to construct a sample of 136 pairs of monozygotic twins, of whom 85 percent were married. In 23 percent of the cases, one twin was married, the other wasn't.

They extracted data from the survey on the hourly wages, weeks worked a year, age and educational attainment of the men in their sample and compared these with figures for all American males. The results implied that their sample was reasonably representative of the nation's population.

Consistent with other studies, they found a significant marriage premium: controlling for education, age and other variables, the married men in their sample earned about 19 percent more than unmarried men.

They then examined just the wage differences between twins, while still controlling for education. They found that married twins had 26 percent higher wages than their unmarried siblings. Hence, even among very similar men, those who are married earn substantially more.

The authors found essentially the same results if they factored in divorced or widowed status, or added variables like a spouse's work experience, number of children and wage history.

This result suggests that marriage really does have a causal impact on wages. Of course, it is not conclusive. After all, maybe the married twin really is different in some way from his brother, and that difference is important to both potential spouses and employers. Still, it is suggestive evidence.

So, here's the advice Hamlet would get from an economist: put your doubts aside and marry Ophelia. Stop moping around and go get a job. You may not be any happier, but at least you'll make more money.

Hal R. Varian is a professor of business, economics and information management at the University of California, Berkeley (which is where Scott Adams received his MBA!)

-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 2, 2009
I completely disagree with this hypothesis.

If there are fewer / late marriages or more divorce rates, there is good chance that the kids will be less cared for.
If there are fewer healthy and well-bred kids that's bad for the economy - kids are either more likely to commit crime in such cases or less likely to finish their college.
Also, if the birth rate is low, there will be much less productive people left in the economy.

How is that good?

Also, isn't the success of a man dependent on number of children he produces - that is the single most thing that has helped the life forms to survive.

This hypothesis, in my view, is unscientific.
Mar 2, 2009
Mr. Adams,

You probably can check your hypotesis yourself by using www.gapminder.org , it's a very cool website where you can look at various indicators from a lot of countries, and draw animated bubble graphs. I am not sure that the indicators include average age of marriage but maybe there are some other meaningful indicators.
Mar 2, 2009
all good things require effort, nothing of value is easy or free.

economic security is one, so is loving fulfilling family life.

if you just decide to not contribute to next generation's greatest resource (via offspring who will become human resources), and only contribute taxes, you are gaming the system.

you were a deadweight on the system growing up in pub education, or with silver spoon!

not reproducing or being a 'breeder' is a false morality. its actually a scam on other contributors who make kind considerate offspring who grow up to obey law and join society. their parents sacrifice makes world better place AND pays your social security checks.

we have come a long way to villainize childrearing, what a world we live in. exclusively persuing wealth without family will generally make you richer, hard to argue against that...
Mar 1, 2009
TRAGICMISHAP said: "Married people have less time to work and pursue their career than singles. Therefore they will make less money. Duh."

... END QUOTE ...

First, all of your observations and conclusions focus on one economy (your local economy) -- and only consider income.

However, Scott's hypothesis is exploring a possible correlation between marital status and economic successes/entrepreneurship -- and asks us to consider various economies. .

Regardless, your core assumption about unmarried (single) people in the US economy is completely incorrect. Single men DO NOT earn more than married men.

From the US Census (2007 statistics):

Mean income for all males: $34,639

Mean income for married males: $42,183

Mean income for divorced males: $33,717

Mean income for single males (never married); $21,183

So, you might not want to be so quick to drop a "duh" on our host.

As the old proverb says, "If the duh fits, wear it". ;-)

Mar 1, 2009
I agree without a doubt. I thought about it a few year back when I saw that people in my hometown would get their kids married early off, even when they aren't settled and those like me (who are smarter) who would move out to work in Bigger cities and outside of the country would tend to remain unmarried for a long time. I will rather take your argument a step ahead and say that smarter lot with higher IQ tends to delay marriage till it happens to them. Says something about wise-ness of getting married, isnt it? :)
Mar 1, 2009
"My hypothesis is that places where marriage happens early, by custom or religion, will also be the places with the slowest rate of development. In such places there might be fewer entrepreneurs and everyone would take fewer risks." (Scott)

We could also explore another hypothesis; a corollary where lower economic development is not a following effect.

For instance, we could postulate that in less developed economies, the incidence of marriage is higher, and the average age of marriage is lower, because the lower level of economic development offers fewer options to traditional cultural/religious/biological imperatives, such as marriage and procreation.

Within this premise, the significance of marriage become the following effect. That makes sense, at least intuitively.

Just a thought ...

Mar 1, 2009
Israel. We marry young AND have famillies while being innovative and entrepreneurial. I work in hi-tech and play a little game with myself every time we have a design review meeting. I try to count the number of singles in the room -- I never get past 2.
Feb 28, 2009
In Brazil there are a clear link between people marrying young and poverty. Rich ones usually marry later because same reasons in any other country: college (5 years), new carer (2 years) and a minimal financial stability (3 years). There are also a link between number of children and wealth, with poors ones with many childrens and rich ones with less kids.
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Feb 28, 2009
Um. The United States until 40 years ago?

Of course, in a culture that values work and provides opportunities, taking risks = entrepreneurship. For other societies, taking risks = joining the local militia / gang / army / etc.

So, living in a community with a high marriage age either means you have good economic opportunities, or you have a good chance of "experiencing" small-arms fire.
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Feb 28, 2009
I think the exact opposite is true especially in developing countries like India,Brizil and China.. where people get married soon, which means they flirt with danger sooner in life, and hence their enterprenuial spirit. :)
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