Young marriage goes mainstream?

My pro-marriage colloquy with Laura of Pursuing Holiness, advocating a return to a more traditional idea of nuptials in the youthful prime has been echoed by Mark Regnerus in The Washington Post:

The average age of American men marrying for the first time is now 28. That’s up five full years since 1970 and the oldest average since the Census Bureau started keeping track. . . . The age gap between spouses is narrowing: Marrying men and women were separated by an average of more than four years in 1890 and about 2.5 years in 1960. Now that figure stands at less than two years. I used to think that only young men — and a minority at that — lamented marriage as the death of youth, freedom and their ability to do as they pleased. Now this idea is attracting women, too.

You should go read the whole thing. Regnerus is insightful to note the declining gap between the average age of bride and groom. My beautiful wife is four-and-a-half years my junior; I make up for it by my abysmal immaturity, and we’ve been married 20 years.

The pushback from a liberal like Matthew Yglesias is expected. Exactly what he intends to prove by citing the history of marriage in Japan, I’m not sure.

More intriguing is Peter Suderman’s evident horror of young marriage. Given that he’s currently involved with Megan McArdle, might I suspect that Peter is eager to forestall any effort to drag him into the matrimonial snare? But alas, he trips over the facts:

[C]ouples want kids when they want kids, and increasingly that’s going to be in the late 20s and early 30s.

Good luck with that plan. As Orwell said, “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

The mean age of U.S. women at first birth, which had risen steadily to 25.2 in 2005, declined to 25.0 in 2006. This was due in part to the influx of Hispanic immigrants, but also due to the stark biological reality that demographers express by the maxim, “Fertility delayed is fertility denied.”

The slow rise in mean age at first birth, from about 22 in 1964 to 25 now, was entirely a result of the decline of childbearing by women under 25, rather than an increase in childbearing by older women. The oft-heard assertion that women today are having more babies in their 30s is counterfactual. The 2006 birth rate for women ages 30-34 (97.7 births per 1,000 women) was actually lower than the rate in 1964 (the last year of the Baby Boom) when the 30-34 cohort produced 103.4 births per 1,000.

In 1957, at the very peak of the post-WWII Baby Boom, when the total fertility rate (average number of lifetime births per woman) was 3.7, the median age at first marriage for women was under 21. In 1957, the typical American mother had two children by the time she was 25, added a third before she was 30, and there was a 70% chance she’d have a fourth child sometime after she turned 30.

What has happened since then is that the typical college-educated American woman has merely subtracted the two children (those born before age 25) from that 3.7 Baby Boom-era average, leaving her with the typical upscale “microfamily” of 1.7 children. This is, of course, merely an average. The part about delayed childbearing that gets little attention is that it is necessarily accompanied by a rise in childlessness, much of it tragically involuntary, as Pundette explains:

In this scenario, after 10-15 years of contracepting, the not-so-young woman tries to turn her fertility back on. When this doesn’t work as well as the couple hopes, they consult Dr. Frankenstein, who may or may not be able to help them obtain the child they’re now so desperate to have.

The Contraceptive Culture quite often leads to a Darwinian dead end. Among other ironies of 21st-century America is that the secularist elites who most emphatically embrace Darwin are the ones being weeded out as “unfit” by their own instruments, Science and Progress. Meanwhile, the supposedly backward fundamentalists flourish.

Nature ultimately triumphs. Despite all the Science and Progress — the widespread availability of contraception and the advances in medical treatment for infertility — the birth rate for U.S. women ages 18-19 in 2006 (73.0) was still 54% higher than for women ages 35-39 (43.7). Is this not a strong argument that it is more natural to marry at 17 than at 34? Or, at least, to split the difference and say that it is better to wed at 25 than at 30?

UPDATE: Dang, almost forgot Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, at whom I’d merely nodded earlier today. Amanda perfectly exemplifies the sour-grapes aspect of feminist rage against marriage. A grim man-hater who could only expect a proposal from a man with suicidal tendencies, Amanda fulminates:

Sometimes arguing from tradition is merely irritating. Sometimes it’s beyond fucking stupid. But I suppose the good thing is that Regnerus is coming right out and stating a value that social conservatives tend to avoid baldly stating–they desire young marriage (for women), because it’s an effective tool at clipping women’s wings.

Ri-ight. Marriage as a conspiracy against female ambition is the pet paranoia of feminists. They psychologically resemble anti-Semites who see everything as a Zionist plot.

BTW, notice that Amanda illustrates her screed with a 1950s bridal magazine cover. This is the feminist’s favorite revisionist-historical theme of The Bad Old Days, when your mother or grandmother was allegedly oppressed, repressed and suppressed by your evil patriarchal father or grandfather. But wait, there’s much, much more:

I remember the girls who wanted to marry young in college, and everyone felt like they were desperate and weird . . .

“Everyone,” in this case, being the angry, antisocial girls that Amanda hung out with. And yet more:

Being married means handing over a lot of yourself to a man, especially if you’re in your puppy years and haven’t learned to stand up for yourself yet. . . .
The problem with older women (well, not problem—I’d say solution!) is that they are set in their ways, and that means they have more bargaining power in their relationships. If you already have your career, for instance, you know what you stand to lose if you give into the pressure to give it up. But if you don’t have it yet, it makes it much easier to let your husband’s needs and desires dictate the entire relationship.

Well, thank goodness that Amanda Marcotte’s precious career as a 31-year-old feminist blogger is in no danger from a “husband’s needs and desires.” But what tremendous “bargaining power” she’ll have if she ever meets that fellow with suicidal tendencies!

Alas, even some of her fellow feminists have found such men, leaving Amanda always a bridesmaid, never a bride, a sad necessity that she narcissistically imagines as heroic virtue.

UPDATE II: Blame it on Darwin:

Evolution, in short, favors nubile females who still look like they have a great many years of fertility ahead of them.

Hey, I’m a creationist. Don’t blame me.

UPDATE III: Carolyn Tackett:

It seems to me that women these days believe that the path to power, and equality, is the path to masculinity. In other words, the only way for a woman to achieve success is to be more like a man. That belief is a head shaker for my Mom. . . .
My Mom is a real feminist. And after fifty-eight years of marriage, my Dad still looks at her like she’s the hottest woman on Earth.

Wow. Fifty-eight years! And here I was thinking I’d done a big thing to make 20!

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