Are Pornography and Marriage Substitutes for Young Men? by Michael Malcolm, George S Naufal (November 2014) forthcoming in: Eastern Economic Journal, 2015
Substitutes for marital sexual gratification may impact the decision to marry. Proliferation of the Internet has made pornography an increasingly low-cost substitute. We investigate the effect of Internet usage, and of pornography consumption
specifically, on the marital status of young men. We show that increased Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation. Pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect. Instrumental variables and a number of robustness
checks suggest that the effect is causal.
Research published in the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany claims that the rise of free porn on the internet is both correlated with the decline in the amount of young adult men who are married and might actually play a role in the
decline. Researchers surveyed more than 1500 men between 18 and 35, analyzing how they used the internet between 2000 and 2004. The researchers took a look at how many hours each participant spent and how many looked at porn versus religious sites,
adjusting for variables like age, income, education, religiosity, and employment. Roberto A. Ferman at Washington Post writes :
Broadly, higher Internet usage was associated with lower marriage rates. But pornography use in particular was more closely linked to those participants who were not married than any other form of Internet use, including regular use of financial
websites, news websites, sports websites, and several others. The opposite, for comparison, was true for religious website use, which was positively correlated with marriage.
One of the study's authors, professor at University of West Chester, Pennsylvania Dr. Michael Malcolm explains that the study could point to marriage and sexual gratification. Ferman continues:
If pornography is viewed as a means of alternative sexual gratification, then it could be undercutting the need for marriages to serve this function, at the very least during a younger age. Think of it as a milder form of premarital sex.