Let me ask you a question: Do you think being married makes you more or less economically stable? Or if you’re not married, do you think it would?
Marriage can be a great reason for two people who join their lives together to save, prepare for retirement, and become more financially stable… but it also brings a lot of its own expenses — kids, bigger homes, more cars. And getting married itself ain’t cheap, either!
Think about it… the less people get married, the less likely they are to form households, meaning the expenses that come with those… never happen!
It’s estimated that every new household formed contributes $145,000 in new construction and furnishings, not to count the acceleration in spending after people have formed the household and/or gotten married.
It’s simple. No growth in households is NOT a good trend.
Unfortunately, that’s where the U.S. is sitting today! The number of adults who are married fell from 72% in 1960, to 50% in 2013.
Over the same period, the number of households has grown from 52 million to around 122 million, with the number of people per household falling 3.36 to 2.54. Rising households might seem like a good thing, but smaller households aren’t as good for the economy as larger ones!
These trends are natural to a certain degree. As any developed country urbanizes, people tend to be more highly educated, explore different career options, get married later, have fewer kids and educate them better.
But there’s another force at play. Since the great recession in 2008 and 2009, more and more young people are too financially insecure to buy a house and get married.
It’s understandable. Job prospects aren’t good for people in their 20s getting out of college and starting their careers. Unemployment is four percentage points higher for younger people, and the ones that are working are more willing to accept part-time work and lower salaries, to boot.
Like I wrote last week, when government decided to stop subsidizing higher education, they instead began encouraging student loans for a profit. They make approximately $40 billion a year in interest… while the victims of this policy, our young people, suffer from $1.2 trillion and rising in student debt.
How is the economy supposed to grow if young people can’t do what they need to move on with their lives!?
More people are moving in with roommates or staying with parents later. This shows that the younger generation doesn’t see the economy improving as much, as more affluent households that have better job security and more financial assets benefit from the Fed-generated stock bubble.
Sure, it’s reasonable to expect that people would move in with friends or family in a down economy… but it could get even worse as people who have grown to see the “recovery” as increasingly sustainable get knocked over the head with a major economic correction.
But it’s not just the United States facing a demographic cliff… almost all developed countries are experiencing a slowing down of their economies.
Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand have offset such slowing to some degree (if not fully) with high immigration. Immigrating households — from China, especially — tend to prefer a wealthy country where their kids can get a high-quality English-language education.
But countries such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy don’t have that advantage. Not only are they having fewer kids, but they don’t attract substantial immigration, either!
These “declining” countries, which most of the developed ones fall into, are made up of declining workforces and shrinking populations. But most major developed nations are suffering from fewer households, more singles, and the more affluent decreasing their spending (like our Boomers).
Rodney wrote a piece last month explaining that while marriage rates have declined in the U.S., Americans are still crossing life’s thresholds… kids, buying a home, even marriage… but just in a different, less conventional order, and at a slower pace!
That means the economy — at least ours — won’t topple completely. People are resilient, including the ones overburdened by debt, and they’ll eventually guide us out of our current deflationary cycle.
Until then, we’re in for a wild ride.