Marriage, Millennials, and Massive Student Loan Debt

2 Concordia L. Rev. 103 (2017)

15 Pages Posted: 16 May 2017 Last revised: 17 Sep 2017

Date Written: May 15, 2017


Dating apps, contraception, abortion, medical advances that allow the delay of childbearing, changes in female pay, and crippling student loan debt are all factors that may weigh upon the Millennial trend of cohabitation versus marriage. Studies of cohabitation and marriage trends evidence that the Millennial generation is perfectly content in their unwedded bliss, with more than eight million couples cohabitating in the United States. This shifting attitude toward marriage coincides with another uniquely Millennial issue: the burden of student loan indebtedness. Outstanding student loan debt has recently topped $1.2 trillion in the United States, and it is likely that student loan indebtedness will have a significant drag upon the economy when saving, investment, and consumption are stunted. A perfect storm of factors have coalesced: more students are borrowing more money to attend colleges and universities but will then struggle to find jobs that will help them to repay their sizable debt loads in a lagging economy.

While saddling this generation with unprecedented levels of student loan debt will likely carry unintended consequences that impact family formation, social scientists have just recently started studying this issue and data is murky. The purpose of this Essay is to explore the idea that the student loan indebtedness bearing down upon the majority of today’s college graduates creates economic insecurity that forces borrowers to reject or significantly delay marriage, and that burden, taken together with an already lukewarm Millennial attitude, may not bode well for the future of the institution. Record numbers of Millennials have rejected the traditional path of marriage-homeownership-children, and the percentage of Millennials who will marry by age 40 is projected to fall lower than the figure for any previous generation of Americans. To the extent that marriage is an evolving institution that is shaped by economic forces, current student loan policy may relegate marriage to the status of luxury — a ritual afforded only by the wealthy.

Keywords: Debt, Marriage, Millennial, Cohabitation, Student Loan Debt

Suggested Citation

Haneman, Victoria J., Marriage, Millennials, and Massive Student Loan Debt (May 15, 2017). 2 Concordia L. Rev. 103 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Victoria J. Haneman (Contact Author)

Creighton University - School of Law ( email )

2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
United States
8586827656 (Phone)

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