Growing Education Needs Means Less Time and Money for Marriage, Children

“They can’t afford [marriage],” she laughs with a crooked smile, “education is expensive… [we’re] all trying to pay off these student loans.” Nicole Holme, 26, gives a nervous giggle while sitting next to her significant other of 9 years, Jordan Maass, 26. “I am in no rush to get married. It should be something you get to when you’re ready for it.”

But money isn’t the only obstacle that millennials are dealing with in the face of marriage, children, and travelling — post-secondary education stepped into the picture and isn’t planning on going anywhere.

According to a 2013 article from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are clear correlations between the level of education individuals have and at what age they choose to marry. College-educated men and women tend to marry at older ages compared with their counterparts who had fewer years of schooling, and instances of marriage among people aged 25-34 have steadily declined since 1970. The average age of first-time marriages rose to 30.2 years for men and 28.2 years for women in 2003, and the Wall Street Journal claims the recession is the culprit.

What they aren’t considering, however, is the level of education that is required of young adults and just how much it is rising over the years.

“People strive to get into a higher position at work; work seems to be more important than family life and people are waiting longer. It’s not a social norm anymore to marry young, people want these big extravagant [careers] — so they have to wait longer.” Holme is a post-graduate student in HR management at Western University, and is only one that represents a large portion of millennials that hold the opinion of waiting until late-20s to 30s to marry or have children. 

Holme looks over at her boyfriend as he nods in agreement and says, “[in grade 10] our parents were more focused on working right away after high school — instead we were told about university.” Maass is a Western undergraduate student, a Music major as well as a Geography minor. “You need education first; you need to focus on yourself before you can take care of someone else,” Maass explains.

There is a trend that higher educated individuals have a lower divorce rate, an article on marriage and divorce patterns in 2010 by the U.S. Labor Bureau insists. Among those ever married (by the age of 46), the percentage that divorced whom had only a high school diploma was 49.1%, while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was only 29.8%. In the same article, the average age at first marriage for those who only acquired a high school diploma was 22.7 years, in comparison to those who had a bachelor’s degree or higher, at 26.5 years.

Who does this truly affect, though? Macleans magazine proposes in 2010 that as marriages are postponed, the number of women enrolling in universities and colleges has been on a steady increase during that same time frame. “By 1988, female post-secondary enrolment in Canada had eclipsed that of their male classmates, and the divide has only grown since.”

So these statistics aren’t arbitrary; the dramatic dip in marriage rates and thus divorce rates later on down the line is part of a growing trend of women gaining independence and building a stable platform with men for future generations.

For some, marriage is seen as a big contribution to improving society and youth delaying such an important experience is seen as selfish. “I think people put off marriage and children because typically… most people cannot manage either a full time job or full time program whilst either preparing for a marriage or taking care of a child,” says Brandon Stark, a second year Fanshawe Law student, 21. There isn’t anything selfish about it, Stark explains, “It is harder nowadays to establish a lifelong career with a pay scale that allows for proper financial [security] to take care of a child. Either a career is lucrative, or it is stable but does not pay sufficiently in order to pay all the expenses having a child and taking care of it would incur.”

Students these days have their priorities set on a more independent, self-sufficient present and a more luxurious future. If that means that they have to put off starting families and travelling the world, so be it — but it doesn’t mean they are happy about it.

“I also believe a good relationship with family and friends is more important than education. Education is certainly important, but relationships, health and safety, etc. are much more so,” Stark elaborates. However, his perspective on the importance of relationships in a human’s psyche isn’t enough to deviate from the social norm of the present day.

“People aren’t jumping into marriages [as] fast as they used to. People are generally taking more time before they get married with their partners,” Maass defends, quickly followed by Holme,

“There is more time to meet different people and find what you are looking for. People who get married younger are just getting married because they feel that is [what is proper] at the time.”

Still, waiting until after post-secondary education is finished continues to prove a more successful future for both partners. A 2013 article from the magazine, The Atlantic, states that college-educated women benefit the most from marrying later. Women who marry later have a higher yearly salary than those without, with an average personal income for college-educated women in their mid-30s who married after age 30 was $50,415, compared at $32,263 for college-educated women of the same age who married before age 20. That is a 56% difference.

Not only are they more likely to be wealthier, but women who have attained a college education are less likely to have a child before getting married. The average age of first birth for college-educated women was 30, increasing alongside the average age of marriage at 27, which leaves only 12% of births by graduates to unmarried women.

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