Wedding Bells and Broadband

New research suggests that because of the Internet, marriage rates among young people are higher than they would have been without the Web.

According to the author of the research, Andriana Bellou, “In recent decades, we have observed important transformations in the marriage market. For one thing, more young people are seeking marriage partners on the Internet, and relying less on family and friends for such introductions. Like the job market, the Internet’s effect on the marriage market could be transformative,” Ms. Bellou said, given “access to an expanding set of potential partners,” while preserving “a degree of anonymity” for the searcher. These characteristics could also undermine the strength of Internet-made matches, however.

Ms. Bellou, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Montreal, says, “[P]revious studies have suggested a correlation between the Internet and the marriage market.” Her paper goes further, providing “pretty convincing” evidence “that it’s a causal effect.”

In her research, Ms. Bellou studied U.S. data from roughly 1990 to 2006 on the marital status of individuals between 21 and 30 years old from the Current Population Survey as well as Federal Communications Commission reports detailing the propagation of broadband. She found marriage rates were slightly higher among college-educated individuals than those without college degrees.

She set forth her findings in “The Impact of Internet Diffusion on Marriage Rates: Evidence from the Broadband Market,” a paper for the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn.

“If the Internet indeed makes meeting people easier at all times and ages then one might consider entering a marriage less thoughtfully to begin with,” she says. “This would imply more marriages and remarriages but also more divorces. If, on the other hand, the Internet allows matching between more compatible people, one would expect divorce rates to decrease. More research is required to disentangle these effects.”

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