| August 5, 2013
When sports fans discovered that NBA all-star Kevin Durant proposed to WNBA standout Monica Wright, pundits quickly asked, “How will marriage change KD?”
Implied in the very tone of the question was not merely that marriage will change Durant—and it will—but that it must necessarily negatively affect his focus on the basketball court.
Kevin Durant is a multimillionaire athlete famous for his grounded approach to life. When the public greets even his decision to marry with suspicion instead of hearty congratulations, the members of the marriage-minded contingent may rightly assume they’re living in a culture that doesn’t exactly prize covenantal commitment.
Yet, the proven benefits of marriage justify the heartiest of congratulations to Durant and his bride-to-be.
As a 24-year-old professional basketball player in peak performance shape and with an annual salary of $17.83 million, Durant boasts impressive physical and financial health, but, if statistics are any indication, Durant will be even healthier and wealthier as a result of marriage.
As I’ve written repeatedly, married individuals have lower rates of mortality than unmarried individuals—about 50 percent lower among women and 250 percent lower among men. They’re less likely to abuse alcohol or to engage in patently self-destructive behaviors like smoking. They report less depression, less anxiety, and lower levels of psychological distress than those who are single, divorced, or widowed.
By their fifties and sixties, married individuals are likely to have a net worth of nearly four times that of their divorced or never-married counterparts.
KD was also wise to pop the question when he did. The median age at first marriage might be at an all-time high (26 for women, 28 for men), but research suggests that Americans in their mid-20s are primed for lasting, high-quality marriages.
Of Americans in five different data sets, those who married between age 22 and age 25 were most likely to be in “intact marriages of the highest quality,” according to “Later first marriage and marital success,” a 2010 study by Norval D. Glenn, Jeremy E. Ueker, and Robert W.B. Love, Jr.
“Later marriages fare very well in survival but rather poorly in quality,” the researchers write. “The findings … suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in the way of marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid-twenties.”
Should Durant and Wright decide to have children shortly after they marry, they’d demonstrate sagacity yet again—and not just because their children would likely be prodigious basketball players.
According to the 2010 Pew survey, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” 52 percent of twentysomethings say to be a good parent is one of the most important goals in life.
Yet, the number of women who opt for childbearing between the ages of 35 and 39 has increased by nearly 50 percent in the last 20 years, and by 80 percent for women aged 40 to 44, according to statistics cited by clinical psychologist Meg Jay, Ph.D., in her book, The Defining Decade.
“Compared to their twenty-something selves, women are about half as fertile at 30, about one-quarter as fertile at 35, and about one-eighth as fertile at 40,” Jay writes.
Women may proclaim, “30 is the new 20” or “40 is the new 30” as much as they like; biology disagrees.
By proposing, presumably marrying, and possibly having children at a relatively young age, Durant demonstrates his down-to-earth realism yet again. Here is no spoiled celebrity who assumes that, because he can afford to be single or a single dad, or because he and his wife could afford expensive infertility treatments, it must be a neutral life policy to eschew marriage and young childbearing.
In our culture today, the example of a celebrity is an incentive to fans—and incentives matter. It’s not improbable to say that a young boy who admires KD on the basketball court will be more likely to consider marriage “cool” because Durant has given it his de facto endorsement.
Similarly, celebrities themselves are not immune to the incentives of the ambient culture and policy climate. What a shame it would be if we failed to signal to KD that we as a society value his decision to marry! At the very least, we can say, “Congratulations.”
Tina Korbe Dzurisin is a research associate at OCPA. Formerly, she was a staff writer at The Heritage Foundation and an associate editor at HotAir.com.