It wasn't so long ago (1980, to be exact) that the average age of American women marrying for the first time was 22. Less than 30 years later, the average age for a first marriage has jumped to 26 for women and 28 for men. In a recent column for the Washington Post, Mark Regnerus argues that this trend is dangerous because women are putting off marriage during their most "marketable" years, before they have to "beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim" their fertility. He writes: "Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume," but he certainly fails to convince me, a 32-year-old woman not quite married for the first time yet.
Reading Regnerus' column, I'm not sure why he so strongly advocates for young marriages. I mean, sure, I understand that women are most fertile in their 20s, but that doesn’t mean that: a) everyone who eventually marries wants to have kids, or b) women can't get pregnant past their 20s, or c) couples will only be satisfied parents if they conceive their children biologically. Regnerus cites the economic benefits of pooling resources in a marriage, something he seems to suggest doesn't work as well for couples who simply cohabitate, because they are "categorically less stable" and "far more prone to division" than married couples. Fine, but I guess I still don't understand the push for couples marrying in their early 20s, when most barely know who they are, let alone who they're going to grow into.
The average age for first marriages isn't on the rise because, as Regnerus argues, we're all obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, and "hitting the clubs." It’s risen because we have more options than ever before. While he thinks adding a "postgraduate education to a college degree," a "visible amount of career success and a healthy helping of wealth," and "sexual variety for several years" are terrible things, I fail to see how they're worse than being locked into a marriage at 21 with someone you could very well outgrow as you evolve.
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