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Marriage Data

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 16, 2011    •    649 Views

When a valid research study with dependable numbers says the marriage age has climbed to historic heights, should we assume its conclusions are valid?

Not necessarily.

In Economix, Catherine Rampell describes the problem. Her story begins with a Pew Research Center study telling us that a typical bride (age 26.5) and her new husband (age 28.7) are much older. As a result, “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”

However, a University of North Carolina sociologist points out that the base year, 1960, is misleading. A marriage age graph between 1890 and 2010 looks like a flattish “u” with 1956 the low point and 1960, close. By selecting 1960, the study placed our current marriage age in a misleading time frame.

You also might want to listen to this econtalk discussion about other studies with conclusions that could be re-examined.

The Economic Lesson

Fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies depend on accurate statistical research. After Nobel Prize winning economist Simon Kuznets (1901-1985) developed the concept behind the GDP, the country could respond to the business cycle more appropriately. Also because of Dr. Kuznets’s work, we could reallocate resources more appropriately during the Second World War.

An economic question: How might later marriages affect government’s economic policies?

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