Prospects Strong for those Wishing to Marry Later

Two decades ago, Newsweek magazine joked that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than ever marry. Though the comment was made in jest, it stuck and was often cited. However, even the not-joking marriage probability rating they offered for a 35-year-old woman was only 5 percent. The story induced quite a lot anxiety, which, it turns out, wasn’t warranted.

While fewer married in their 20s, the rate of women who eventually marry was much higher than expected, according to’s Marriage by the Numbers. Some trends that did pan out as expected were the higher rates of cohabitation and the emergence and growth of single mothers by choice.

The biggest marriage shift for women has been to wait longer to marry. Additionally, marriage rates for better educated women is much higher than for women with lower levels of education. While the old stereotype said that women who excelled professionally may have been less appealing or “overqualified” as spouses, a 2001 Princeton study shows that college degrees make a woman more likely to marry, not less so. The trend is so pronounced that researchers now worry “that marriage, which confers a host of economic, tax and child-rearing advantages, is becoming disproportionately reserved for better-educated, middle- and upper-class elites.”

Many of today’s 30-somethings are less alarmed today if they haven’t found the perfect mate, says the article. Odds are, in fact much better for those in their 30’s and 40’s who wish to marry to find a spouse than had been assumed. Approximately 90 percent of baby-boomers have married or will marry. In 1960, half of women married by 20. Now, many more women are waiting to finish college and at least begin their careers. As of 1996, a single 40-year-old woman had about a 41 percent chance of marrying. Those odds have increased to just under 50 percent. Today, the median age for a first marriage is 25 for women and 27 for men.

While most of the research focused on women, because data on them was more available, men’s attitudes toward marriage have also changed over time. Both genders of Gen-Xers are said to have a greater commitment to marriage because so many watched their parents divorce. Many men openly seek a wife as much as the reverse. Women are also considering younger men, where previously that was more taboo.

Newsweek revisited 11 of the 14 single 20-something women who were interviewed for the original story. Eight are married, including a pediatrician who met her husband while hiking the Badlands and married at 45. Some said they wished they had found their spouses earlier, especially when battling infertility. Three remained single, one whose fiancée died, another who chose to adopt as a single woman. None who married divorced.

Are you still looking for the perfect spouse? Do you think it helps that people are marrying later in life when they are more mature and established? What are your predictions for future marriage rates? (Or, would you prefer we ignore these predictive statistics entirely?)

For the full Newsweek article, visit:

5 responses to “Prospects Strong for those Wishing to Marry Later

  1. The first time I got married I was in my early 30s–although I had dated him for nearly 10 years. Was there an advantage to waiting so long? NO–not with him anyway. I think the reason was because I was still thinking with my heart and not with my right mind.

    I have since re-married and know that I got it right this time. I can look back at all of the mistakes i made the first time around and make better judgements. My new husband is also married for the second time and making adjustments as well.

    Great post!

  2. Chriss Gregor-Maxwell

    I got married at -gasp!- 36, and am glad I lived a life singly before marrying. But those early 30’s were difficult and lonely times- yes, I wish would have met my husband earlier. But who knows if I would have liked him then? And I am glad I didn’t “settle” just to get married- i think that always ends in divorce!

  3. Men these days are the ones who put off marriage. Many men seem to think they can wait until age 50 to marry and have kids. Then they hear words from their doctors, words like “poor sperm morphology” and “age-related male factor infertility”. A lot of these 50-something men are also finding out that 20-something women aren’t interested in an old “geezer”. The young ladies want young men – any surprise there?

    • Eric and KK–yes fertility does play into the decision to marry later. Eric, while reproductive issues may become easier in the future, they are currently a very real concern for both men and (especially) for women who wish to have a family. Even those who wish to adopt can’t wait too long (unless they’re Madonna) since many birth mothers want to choose parents on the younger side. Glad you see the value in a mature companion. 😉

  4. Reproductive issues will soon become problems of the past. Through cutting-edge diet, exercise and supplements, I’m keeping my sperm in superb shape and storing extra just in case. I’m not ready to marry yet. And I don’t want a young girl either. Young girls are too emotionally immature.

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