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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:

www.un.org/esa/population/publications/worldmarriage/worldmarriagepatterns2000.pdf

 
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Feb 28, 2009
I think it's well-established that in poorer economies the world over, where often finding enough to eat is a problem, let alone contributing towards a pension, your children represent your livelihood when you are ill, or too old to work any longer. The sooner you start to have children, and the more of them you have, the better your chances of being cared for adequately in your dotage, or when ill. So I think you've got it the wrong way round. It's not having children young that makes a country poor. It's the fact that the country is poor that forces people to have lots of children as early as possible. And of course, if you're hungry to begin with, how much of your income would you be willing to spend on contraception?
 
 
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Feb 28, 2009
I have to agree with scbaker, that it's all about children. not marriage. Two don't really live as cheaply as one, but your expenses don't double. Judging by the comments here, I apparently married early (22) and had no kids for 6 years. Definitely allows for some financial flexibility. Now we have 3 in daycare.... nuff said.
 
 
Feb 28, 2009
You may be onto something there Scott.

Men in Edinburgh (where I live) and Scotland in general, seem to get married at a younger age (most seem to be married by 26-27) while in London there seems to be plenty of men in their 30s still single. Out of the two cities, I'd say London was definitely the more entrepeneurial.

My conclusion is - I'm living in the wrong city.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
I think there is a flaw in your argument and it is in your idea of marriage. You rightly assume that people (men) want to maximise their sexual fulfilment. However, you assume that as soon as people (men) are married, the sexual fulfilment is over. Hence the incentive to put off the marriage until a) sexual energy is reduced and less important or b) the unlikely case that the perfect partner is found.

I think this is probably true in many Western countries, I have an urban population in mind, New York, London, Frankfurt etc.

Some readers already pointed to India which is entrepreneurial but has early marriages. I would like to point to ethnic Chinese capitalism which is found in a number of countries and where the tradition is also to marry young. But these places have high rates of economic growth.

I think it is (partly) because in many Asian countries, at least for the male part of the marriage, sexual fulfilment is not over after marriage as there is ample opportunity to engage in extra-marital sex, e.g. going to hostess bars with business associates. Without the social stigma attached and without a Protestant mindset ("God is seeing everything!") the young entrepreneur can be economically successful (and hence his country), married at a young age and promiscuous at the same time.

Does this make sense?
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
Scott, there may be some truth in what you say, but there are many other factors in play when it comes to entrepreneurship and taking risk.

Just to give an example. The Gujaratis in India are one of the most enterprising communities. Most of them marry young, usually between 20-25. But they have a culture of entrepreneurship. While other communities encourage their children to take a safe government job or a high paying job with a multinational organisation, a gujarati is always encouraged by his family to do something on his own. Holding a job, ie working for somebody else, is generally deemed as something that people who have no other choice do. With such a strong cultural background favouring self-employment, it is little wonder that these people are among the most entreprising and successful people in India.
 
 
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Feb 27, 2009
Here's the statistics you want: thtp://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/worldmarriage/worldmarriagepatterns2000.pdf

Difference in age between men and women at marriage looks promising as an economic indicator.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
Afghanistan, Iran, and the country of Africa (yes that was on purpose). What do I win?
 
 
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Feb 27, 2009
Scott, I disagree with your premise that single people are more free to take risks than married people. Perhaps you mean people without children vs with children? I married early (21) and because my wife was working, I was able to pursue grad school. After grad school, because she was earning a good income, I was able to "gamble" by joining a start up company. I could take the risk of having my job disappear in 6 months. (I got lucky as I've been able to grow along with the company over 10 years now).
 
 
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Feb 27, 2009
For those who say India, I must add - a lot of the marriages that happen in India are arranged - so the couple live with either their parents or their parents provide the newly wedded couple with financial help to find a new home.
But lately, a lot of people in the cities prefer to stay single for longer because they need not depend on their families for financial support and they are more concerned about their careers. So I do think economic prosperity leads to lesser number of marriages.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
Utah. Mormons get married younger than most Americans and have a lower divorce rate. So, you can probably do some analysis of this idea using the state of Utah.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
I think your hypothesis will fall down in several respects:

1) I would guess that if two regions had widely varying marriage ages, one would have an AVERAGE age of say 18, while the other would have one of, say 27. Howver, even most 27-year-olds are not business-savvy enough to be successful entrepeneurs. That tends to happen later in life, after one has seen the mistakes of others, or made and survived mistakes while working for others.

2) If you were instead to compare marriage RATES for areas (which allows for older, divorced entrepeneurs) you might do better. But keep in mind that marriage DETROYS money, which can lead to the failure (or sale) of a business, or the seed money to start one.

3) It's anecdotal, but I've known several entrepeneurs who were only able to start their business BECAUSE of their spouses support. Income from a startup can be zero for the first few years - it helps to have a working partner to bring in SOME money.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
Single people may be more entrepreneurial and risk taking, but I don't think they fare as well in corporations. I think corporations favor married people when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. Married people presumably have more at stake, so they can be counted on the conform to the corprate culture. They won't rock the boat with unpleasant observations and creative ideas. A big proportion of singles would just as soon fit into a corporation as be an entrepreneur, which they may know they have no talent for. But companies crush creativity and stress conformity and social gamesmanship. Companies and economies lose when both the married and single are forced into this mold. And those single entrepreneurs will probably just end up hiring the safe married people anyway. The cycle continues.
 
 
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Feb 27, 2009
How about the state of Utah? We're doing very well compared to the rest of the country, and the joke goes that if your over 21 and not married, you're a menace to society.
 
 
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Feb 27, 2009
India, China, and UAE.

You'll probably also find large (and growing) class divides in those countries, too. If you wanted to make a study out of it, you'd have to control for individual SES, and then you'd probably find a confirmation to your theory.
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
India, for starters.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2009
How about name three vibrant contries...
 
 
Feb 27, 2009
I'm having difficulties just naming three vibrant entrepreneurial countries.
 
 
 
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