|Average Age-gap||Problem for |
|Zero||5% of the boys|
|Boys 1 year older||Perfect Harmony|
|Boys 2 years older||5% of the girls |
|Boys 3 years older||10% of the girls |
|Boys 4 years older||15% of the girls |
These school children eventually graduate and start looking for shidduchim. For everyone to find a zivug, the number of boys looking for a shidduch has to be approximately equal to the number of girls looking for a shidduch. As you can plainly see, if the age-gap is one year, meaning that on average the boys marry girls that are one year younger, then the supply of the girls exactly meets the supply of boys. As the population grows year by year, it grows in equal numbers on both sides of the aisle, and there is no crisis. It makes no difference if 21 year old boys on average marry 20 year old girls, or 23 year old boys on average marry 22 year old girls or any other combination; so long, as, on average, the age-gap is one year, there is perfect harmony in the supply of boys and girls.
Now, let’s first analyze what happens when on average boys marry girls that are the same age; an age-gap of zero (a situation we are currently seeing by Chasidim). Since there are more boys born every year, we have a crisis whereby 5% of the boys are in danger of not finding a zivug.
Now let’s an analyze what happens when the age-gap is four years, meaning that on average, the boys marry girls who are four years younger. So when the 120 girls born in 1994 turned 19 years old in 2013 and started looking for shidduchim, only 105 boys born in 1990 who turned 23 in 2013 started looking for shidduchim. Since you cannot possibly matchup 120 girls with 105 boys, at the very best, 15 of those girls cannot find a shidduch. Of course we hope that the 15 girls will find a shidduch with next year’s boys. Next year, however, a new batch of 125 new 19 year old girls are starting shidduchim along with 110 new 23 year old boys, again leaving 15 girls with no matchup. In two short years, we are already dealing with 30 girls who cannot be matched up. This goes on year after year, and the number of single girls continues to grow year after year. If, on average, the boys would be actually be older than the girls by four years, then 15% of all graduating Bais Yaakov high school girls would never get married. Of course, not every 23 year old boy marries a 19 year old girl. Some actually marry girls of the same age, or even girls who are older than themselves. However, if all boys were actually marrying girls who on average, were four years younger, we would have a 15% problem on the girls’ side. So we can now safely draw the following chart.
Why Age-Gap is the Determining Factor of How Many Stay Single
Years ago, people in the Litvish/Yeshivish community noticed that it was much harder for a girl to get engaged than it was for a boy, and that many more girls were remaining single then there were boys remaining single. The term shidduch-crisis was originally coined to give a name to this phenomenon. No one really understood its cause. A number of (mathematically inclined) individuals studied this phenomenon, and determined that the problem was real, and the cause of the problem was an age-gap. To properly identify why age-gap is the cause of the shidduch crisis, and also explain why Chasidim seem to have the opposite problem, namely that boys are having a harder time finding a shidduch then the girls, we will have to analyze some numbers.
In censuses all over the world, it has been observed that there are more boys born each year than there are girls born in that same year. This is not a very recent occurrence. The US government has been tracking births by gender at least as far back as 1942, and the census has found that every single year there are approximately 5% more boys born than girls in the US. Based on an Avi Chai Foundation 2014 study, we now know that this phenomenon of more boys born than girls also holds true for our Orthodox community. The Avi Chai Foundation studied how fast the Jewish student population was increasing at each grade level starting from the first grade through the 12th grade. They surveyed all Jewish schools, and broke down the numbers by grade level, ten different levels of affiliation (Litvish, Chasidish, Chabad, Modern Orthodox, etc.), and also broke down the numbers by gender. Although the survey did not intend to study the overall percentage of boys enrolled vs girls enrolled in Jewish schools, the foundation noted that they happened to notice that of the approximately 250,000 students enrolled in Jewish schools, 48% were girls and 52% were boys. We therefore now know that what we observe in the general world population, whereby more boys are born every year, also holds true for the Orthodox community. So, we have now established that there are approximately 5% more boys born each year than there are girls born in that same year.
In studying the shidduch crisis it is also very important to know how fast the child population is increasing every year. Once you know how many are in 12th grade, and how many are in 1st grade, it becomes very easy to calculate the yearly growth rate. Thanks to the Avi Chai study we now know that in the Orthodox community, (both Chasidish and Litvish), the child population is increasing by just about 5% each year be”h.
We will now work with the two known numbers, namely: 1) that there are approximately 5% more boys born each year than girls born that year, and 2) that the number of each gender is increasing by approximately 5% a year. We are now in a position to explain the shidduch crisis. To make it easier for the reader to follow, we will work with whole numbers (no decimals). Also to make it easier, we will deal with an imaginary community where 100 girls and 105 boys were born in a particular year, let’s say 1990. In 1991, because of 5% baby population growth, we have 105 girls born and 110 boys born. Let’s put all these children in school, and draw a box to show how many children are in each grade.
Average age-gap means just that: average. Some couples can have an age-gap above or below that number, but on average there is a number, and that number determines how many girls (or boys) will stay single. In Litvish circles we are seeing an average age-gap of almost three years, resulting in about 10% of all girls staying single al pi derech hateva r”l.
We used a made-up community consisting of 100 girls and 105 boys born in 1990. Thanks again to the Avi Chai Foundation study, we know that in 2014 more than 2,000 girls graduated Bais Yaakov high schools. In 2015, more than 2,100 girls graduated. Without itemizing the numbers graduating each year, we know that 25,174 girls will be graduating in the next decade. If age-gap is not meaningfully reduced, we can unfortunately forecast, that another 2,500 of these graduating girls will be destined to remain single forever r”l.
Age-gap can be reduced by either boys starting shidduchim earlier or girls starting later. It is quite convenient to say “Let the girls start later.” In theory it would work. However, unless an issur (ban) is issued by many Gedolim for any girl to start shidduchim before age 22 (a situation we cannot imagine ever happening), any girl that voluntarily withdraws herself from seeking a shidduch until age 22, is doing great harm to her chances of ever getting married. Therefore the effective way to reduce age-gap is for the boys to start younger.
So what can you do?
Gedolim and Roshei Yeshiva are calling for this change of starting shidduchim for bochurim at a younger age. The sooner we, as a community heed the call, the sooner we will see the day when each and every Bais Yaakov graduate can realize her dream of building a bayis ne’eman b’yisrael.