First, the study, which was published in Demographic Research.
With increasing levels of student loan debt, the path to economic stability may be less smooth than it was for earlier generations of college graduates. This paper explores this emerging trend by assessing whether or not student loan debt influences family formation.
The objective of this study is to examine whether student loan debt delays marriage in young adulthood, whether or not the relationship between student loan debt and marriage differs for women and for men, and if this relationship attenuates during the years immediately after college graduation.
METHODS We estimate a series of discrete-time hazard regression models predicting the odds of first marriage as a function of time-varying student loan debt balance, using a nationally representative sample of bachelor’s degree recipients from the 1993 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (N = 9,410).
RESULTS We find that the dynamics of loan repayment are related to marriage timing for women, but not for men. Specifically, an increase of $1,000 in student loan debt is associated with a reduction in the odds of first marriage by 2 percent a month among female bachelor degree recipients during the first four years after college graduation. This relationship attenuates over time.
CONCLUSION Our study lends support to the proposition that the financial weight of monthly loan repayments impedes family formation in the years immediately following college graduation – however, only for women. This finding questions traditional models of gender specialization in family formation that emphasize the economic resources of men.
I think that a woman who is serious about studying something that will allow her to get a job related to her field so she can quickly pay off her loans in the first few years is a very good sign of RESPECT for a man, and for his role as primary/sole provider. Men choose tough majors / trades for a reason, and they do tough jobs for a reason. When a woman chooses something hard to study and then chooses a hard job to do to pay off her loans, it’s showing to her man that she respects what he is doing to provide for the family. I think this is something that parents need to encourage young women to do, but so often parents focus too much on spiritual / emotional concerns instead of practical wisdom when leading their kids.
When a woman asks a man to work to pay for the marriage – with all the costs of home, furniture, diapers, tuition, etc. – she is asking him for a commitment to work until he is 65. That is a lot to ask, and it is very hard to accept this from a woman who doesn’t understand the difficulty of earning and saving money.
So what do I recommend to a woman? I recommend she do a STEM degree, pay off her debts, guard her chastity, marry young when she is fertile, have a few years of work to pay off student loans and get used to the workplace, demonstrate ability in apologetics and mentoring others, etc. A wife needs to have a lot more skills than just being pretty and young. There are things she has to do in the marriage – things that take preparation. The more accustomed she is to hard work and self-sacrifice, the easier she will take to her role in the marriage. Women who are used to having to do hard things that they don’t feel like doing make the best wives and mothers. It’s something that a woman can grow into, if she lets herself be challenged to grow.
My friend Amy is fond of telling me that people usually adapt to their friends. So if all your friends are very spiritual and impractical, and they don’t have jobs or savings, then chances are you’ll be like them, too. To get out of debt, don’t take financial advice from people who, in their own lives, show no evidence of knowing what to study, how to find a job, how to save money, and so on. Instead of pushing away the people who “rain on your parade” with wisdom, grab them and keep them close. Watch what they do. Talk to them about your finances. Rely on them to hold you accountable for choosing a good major, updating your resume, and continuously growing your salary, through annual raises or job changes. That’s how you get better.
I don’t say these things in order to make women feel bad, or limit their freedom unnecessarily. I tell women to make good decisions to prepare for marriage, to practice self-denial and self-sacrifice, to choose the right men, to not be scared away by strong providers and men with moral and religious convictions. Although on one level, women can be scared off by men who have firm and definite convictions, they need to understand that these men are the most reliable men to marry. Men who don’t make demands on women usually don’t respond well to demands that women make on them. A strict moral and theological framework can seem scary to a woman – she might feel scared that she could be rejected. But it’s exactly these convictions that ground a man’s ability to keep loving her, to stick with her, and to encourage and support her as she grows.
Instead of being frightened by men who ask her to do good things, she should view it as an asset, not a liability. And the more she listens to his leading and grows, the more independent and capable she will be. She will feel better about doing hard things and playing a role. Better than she would feel about always choosing the easy way and then finding herself without accomplishments. Demanding men can be bad, but not if the demands they make are to build the woman up. The demand that a woman be serious about paying her debts with a real plan might seem scary to some women, but the study shows that this is good advice for her to be more attractive – to any man who might want to marry her.