A new report from polling firm Gallup says marriage could be effective economic stimulus. It's not just because of lavish spending on wedding dresses and chocolate fountains, either. Gallup finds that married Americans spend more than their peers who are single, divorced or in domestic partnerships.
Gallup crunched daily spending tracking data from January through September 2013 for more than 130,000 U.S. adults and found that married Americans spend, on average, $102 a day. That's slightly more than the $98 spent by people in domestic partnerships and far higher than the $74 spent by divorced Americans, $67 by those who are single and never married, and $62 by widows and widowers.
The pattern holds true across all age groups Gallup studied, from Americans 18-24 to those 75 and older. Married adults in Gallup's data hit their peak spending at ages 40-44, when they spent $123 daily on average. Meanwhile, adults in domestic partnerships at that age spent $91 daily, and single adults spent $81.
"These results suggest that if more Americans are married, and fewer are single/never married, overall spending might increase," Gallup concludes in its report on the findings.
Later marriage and lower marriage rates, by Gallup's logic, could spell trouble for economic growth. And the average age of marriage continues to creep upward, and is currently at 27 for women and 29 for men, according to a recent report sponsored by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, and the RELATE Institute.
Marriage may indeed inspire more spending; joining households with another person can mean shared costs and free up more discretionary funds, and it can also prompt more daily spending as couples have children.
However, it could also be that a healing economy will boost the marriage rate. Indeed, some people are waiting to get married until they have what they consider sufficient funds to do so.
A Gallup survey from August found "money/financial reasons" to be the No. 3 reason why single Americans say they are not married. Another recent study suggested rising college debt is leading young Americans to postpone marriage. And a 2010 analysis from the Pew Research Center suggested the recession had pushed average marriage ages higher.
In other words, when you start receiving lots of "save the date" cards, it may be a sign that things are improving. Or perhaps as the economy continues to recover, it might be a good idea to clear your weekends for spring 2014.