November 4 2013
Boost the Economy by Saying “I Do”
Patrice J. Lee
People marry for sundry reasons: love, companionship, status, sex, and money. But here’s a new reason to tie the knot: to stimulate economic activity.
According to new analysis married Americans spend more each day than singles (never married), divorced or any other marital status category. Singles who’ve never married spend significantly less especially for those under 50. If the marriage rate increases, overall spending is likely to increase, benefiting our national economy.
Married Americans report a daily spending average of $102, followed by $98 among those who are living in domestic partnerships, $74 by divorced Americans, $67 by those who are single and never married, and $62 by those who are widowed. As shown in the accompanying graph, across all age groups, those who are married spend more than those of other marital statuses.
Gallup asks Americans to report how much money they spent the prior day, excluding payments for normal household bills and major purchases such as homes or cars. The figure gives an estimate of discretionary spending. The current analysis is based on January through September 2013 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 130,000 U.S. adults.
These results suggest that if more Americans are married, and fewer are single/never married, overall spending might increase. Similarly, if more Americans are in domestic partnerships and fewer are single, that too would appear to be related to higher spending.
We reported not too long ago about a potential upswing in the marriage rate because of pent up demand. This is a reminder to singles out there that despite the headlines and negative cultural norms against marriage, it’s worth it from an economic standpoint for individuals/families to a macroeconomic level.
Frankly, it’s not surprisingly that married couples spend more. With multiple incomes or even one income but shared expenses, couples have more discretionary income to spend on groceries, appliances, clothes and vacations. That is the kind of spending that can boost our national economy.
So, if it makes so much financial sense (putting aside the emotional, psychological, social and spiritual benefits), why aren’t younger people running to the altar?
Today, it’s common and even fashionable for Gen X and Millennial women to forgo marriage and have children on their own. According to a Marie Claire article from several years ago Pew research found that over all new mothers are older than their counterparts were two decades ago. Whereas in 1990, women ages 35 and older made up only 9% of single mothers, for 2008 that is up to 14%.
Many women find it difficult to find a partner or are left with a child after a failed relationship. Popular shows also paint single motherhood as cool and easy, but mask the economic hardship of raising children alone – even with a good salary. Let’s not forget that even for the financially independent single women and moms, a job lay-off is a quick route to financial ruin.
And speaking of employment, 18-29 year-olds also face a tough job market with a 16 percent effective unemployment rate for the month of September according to Generation Opportunity’s Millennial Jobs Report (in full disclosure: I work for this organization.)
The impact of high unemployment for this generation is that we postpone many of the milestone’s such as buying a first car, purchasing a first home and getting married, which our parents and grandparents were able to enjoy at this point in the lives. And it may be a decade or more before we catch up.
Marriage is a bedrock institution for society that ought to be uplifted and upheld. For families and our economy, it just makes cents!