In 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 when reaching their mid- to late 20s were married. Today, as a result of economic hardship and high financial costs of marriage which fall largely on the groom, nearly 50 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 29 are unmarried. Lack of affordable housing is also another important factor that contributes to this delay since more couples desire independent housing after marriage. While delay in marriage can lower fertility and expand women’s opportunities for education and work, the involuntary delay in marriage is generating new social and economic difficulties protracting young people's transition to independence.
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.
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.
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.
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 >>
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
Youth Exclusion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: The Impact of Social, Economic and Political Forces
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 (Brookings Press, 2009), edited by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef, represents three years of research on youth exclusion in the Middle East.
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.
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.