Skip to main content


The Challenge

Source: Julio Etchart, 2002, World BankIn the Middle East, marriage and family formation are significant milestones for young people in their transition to adulthood. A generation ago, marriage was both early and universal - 63 percent of Middle Eastern men were married when reaching their mid- to late 20s. Today, as a result of economic hardship, as well as high financial costs of getting married largely placed on the groom, nearly 50 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 29 are unmarried. Lack of affordable housing compounds the costs of marriage, and further contributes to marriage delay. While one result of this shift has been lower fertility and expanded education and work opportunities for women, the delay in marriage, unwelcomed by many, is generating new social and economic difficulties protracting young people's transition to independence.

The Opportunity

Policymakers and researchers need to pay more attention to the issue of delayed marriage and seek better understanding of its significance on young people's lives. As more young people delay marriage, the institution of marriage is changing and new marriage “substitutes” and norms are emerging to replace its traditional definition. Paying attention to the housing market can play an important role in determining new ways to alleviate financial costs and encourage youth to become fully independent and start a family.

The possible economic effects of Obama's Middle East speech

19 May 2011

In anticipation of President Obama's 19 May speech on the Middle East, Tarik Yousef comments on the importance of economic investment and assistance in the region. This interview was originally published by NPR and is reposted here.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani Authors New Paper on Iranian Youth in Times of Economic Crisis

8 Oct 2010

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, MEYI nonresident senior fellow, has authored a new paper entitled “Iranian Youth in Times of Economic Crisis” (2010) as part of the Dubai Initiative Working Paper Series. Using survey data for 2007 and 2008, Salehi-Isfahani reviews the evidence on youth transitions in Iran to show how the recent economic crisis has affected youth transitions to employment and to marriage. He also shows how transitions differ by family background and by region of residence – rural and urban.

New Radio Program Features Interview with MEYI

15 Sep 2010
America Abroad Media has recently released its new radio program, Overlooked and Underpaid: Arab Youth in Today’s Economy. The hour-long program features a number of segments, including an interview with Samantha Constant. The program is the second of a three-part series that will explore the challenges confronting Arab youth today.

Experts Convene in Damascus to Review Policy Priorities for Middle East Youth

16 Jun 2010
Experts from the Middle East Youth Initiative network and partners met on June 13 and 14 to identify new priorities in youth research and policy in the Middle East. The meeting was hosted by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings, the Dubai School of Government, and the Development Research Centre at the Syria Trust for Development.

New Interactive Map: Taking Stock of the Youth Challenge in the Middle East

15 Jun 2010
The Middle East Youth Initiative has released a new online interactive map with key statistics on youth-related issues for all 18 Middle East countries, based on analysis by Samantha Constant and Mary Kraetsch. The map includes key statistics related to each country’s economy, demographics, education and youth employment status.

Dubai Initiative Conference at Harvard Features MEYI Scholars

6 May 2010
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Edward Sayre, Christine Binzel and Daniel Egel participated in a youth-focused panel at the 2010 Dubai Initiative Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

First Policy Outlook Demonstrates Link Between Housing Policies and Marriage

26 Nov 2008

In the first Policy Outlook by the Middle East Youth Initiative, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ramadan show how housing policy reforms in Egypt have made marriage more affordable for young people. This new research demonstrates how effective policies to grant young people access to key markets, such as housing, are critical in order to ensure successful transitions to adulthood.

Delaying Marriage, Delaying Adulthood

9 Jul 2008

In a recent interview with the Middle East Youth Initiative, Dr. Diane Singerman explains how the exorbitant costs of marriage in Egypt are preventing many young people from fully transitioning to adulthood and achieving financial independence. Dr. Singerman explains why we should care about delayed marriage in the Middle East, and the impact of this phenomenon on a macroeconomic level. Read More >>

Transitions to Employment and Marriage among Young Men in Egypt
18 Oct 2010, Ragui Assaad, Christine Binzel and May Gadallah

Ragui Assaad, Christine Binzel and May Gadallah share new findings on the transition to first jobs, job mobility, and the timing of marriage among young men in Egypt.

Youth Transitions to Employment and Marriage in Iran: Evidence from the School to Work Transition Survey
30 Jun 2010, Daniel Egel and Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Daniel Egel and Djavad Salehi-Isfahani examine the factors that affect youth transitions to adulthood in Iran, using retrospective data to connect individual outcomes in the education system and labor and marriage markets.
Youth Exclusion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: The Impact of Social, Economic and Political Forces
25 Jan 2010, Edward Sayre and Samia Al-Botmeh

Edward Sayre and Samia Al-Botmeh examine three dimensions of the transition to adulthood by Palestinian youth: acquiring skills through schooling and training, finding employment, and forming a family.

Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East
8 Oct 2009, Edited by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef

Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East (Brookings Press, 2009), edited by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef, represents three years of research on youth exclusion in the Middle East.

Did Housing Policy Reforms Curb the Delay in Marriage Among Young Men in Egypt?
26 Nov 2008, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ramadan

In this Middle East Youth Initiative Policy Outlook, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ramadan demonstrate that housing policy reforms in Egypt have made rental housing more affordable and accessible to young people and have also contributed to a declining age at marriage among young men.

Stalled Youth Transitions in the Middle East: A Framework for Policy Reform
8 Oct 2008, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani and Navtej Dhillon

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani and Navtej Dhillon present a framework for policymakers to improve youth outcomes by addressing institutional distortions across sectors: from the education system to the employment, housing, and credit markets.

The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities Among Youth in the Middle East
12 Dec 2007, Diane Singerman
If adulthood equals marriage in the Middle East, exclusion from marriage or delayed marriage compromises full participation in society.
Youth Exclusion in Iran: The State of Education, Employment and Family Formation
12 Dec 2007, Djavad Salehi-Isfehani and Daniel Egel
While the youth bulge has exacerbated the challenges facing young people in Iran, it is not the root cause of youth exclusion.