Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Will Student Loans Lower Marriage Rates?

In a post I published for the Real Estate Wonk, a reader Chris commented:

I have no interest in buying a home using debt, nor do I have any interest in starting a family before I am totally out of student debt, that really bugs the women I date these days but I am honest with them upfront.
In the past, I've predicted that marriage rates will be low in the future (Will Marriage Become A Minority and Will Low Marriage Rates Sap Future Housing Demand) and even provided some reasons to explain why. However, the reader Chris calls attention to an issue that might consider some to delay or avoid marriage: student loans. And one of my favorite bloggers, Mish, wrote about it as well in How Student Debt Wrecks Marriages, Inhibits Family Formation, and Delays the Housing Recovery.

These two cases provide a different perspective: in one case, someone with a large amount of student loans avoids getting married until they're paid off, and the other, gets "dumped" because of a large student loan balance. One might think that these examples provide evidence that marriage rates will be low in the future, but there are three larger issues in front of student loans that will lower marriage rates:

1. The time and energy invested in education. While education provides many benefits, I would point out that Echo Boomers will be limited in their time to date and expand experiences with the opposite/same sex. Frankly, the amount of time spent in school encumbers marriage more than the cost.

2. The rise of single parents. Kids can cost as much as some professional degrees, and while people may argue about the positive experiences from having kids, you can see why some Echo Boomers might opt out of marriage if their partner already has a few kids (it is not uncommon to speak with Echo Boomers who already have two or three kids, yet no spouse).

3. Male and female Echo Boomers don't seem to be "moving" in similar directions. For the record, this won't stop those who are attracted to the same sex, but since the majority of current marriages involve members of the opposite sex, this issue seems to offer a large problem. While I would need 5000 words to elucidate this point, for now, my argument is that major differences exist between males and females in terms of environment, living preference, ambition, et cetera. Differences can often bring people together, but I'd argue you won't see this if opposite genders are living thousands of miles away from each other (or are trying).

In the future, I'll expand more on point three as I've been studying different patterns of behavior among males and female Echo Boomers for the past seven years (including many of my years in college).

Yes, student loans may play into the consideration to start a marriage or family, but as I see it, you have three other major factors that will play into marriage decisions over student loan balances.