Why It’s A Wonder Anyone Gets Married Anymore

Why It’s A Wonder Anyone Gets Married Anymore

Kay Hymowitz, who has been writing a lot of dazzling columns about gender these days, speculates about whether women’s newfound dominance in college graduation rates will lead to less marriages.

In a few weeks, the first of the 2011 college grads will toss their mortarboards in the air and bid adieu to campus life. A healthy majority of those hat-tossers – 57%, actually – will be women.

So here’s a question: when the time comes, will these women be willing to marry ‘down’? Don’t bet on it.

True, over the decades since women have been in the workforce, there has been a significant rise in the number of marriages where women bring home most of the bacon. As of 2007, 22% of wives were earning more than their husbands; that’s an impressive increase since 1970, when the number was only 4%. The percentage of couples where women have more schooling has also grown. Twenty-eight percent of wives have more education than their husbands; that is true of only 19% of husbands. The numbers were almost exactly the reverse in 1970, when 28% of husbands had more education, compared to 20% of wives.

…Remember, 22% of wives may be earning more than their husbands, but 78% are not.

It’s no secret that birth rates have been dropping across much of the Western world. The surprise isn’t that it’s happening; it’s that the birth rate hasn’t plunged so far that we’re not completely dying off.

Just think about how things USED to be for most of human history. Men were the breadwinners and women really didn’t have a lot of career options. Yet, they both had a strong incentive to get together: they needed children to take care of them when they got old. It was practically a necessity.

Today, many women are choosing careers instead of relationships and because they’re succeeding, they have less time for a relationship, less incentive to get married, and they’re shrinking their societally acceptable pool of mates because there is a lot of pressure to “marry up” for women.

On the male side, career women are often less attractive as mates to men because they don’t have the time to cook, clean, and dote on them; nor do they admire men for paying the bills since they can do that for themselves. Add to that the fact that divorce has become much more prevalent and that men often get a raw deal in divorce court and it’s easy to see why marriage looks less appealing from the male perspective.

Added to all that, children have become much more expensive to raise and much less necessary economically in people’s old age because of the vast social safety nets we’ve created.

Topping all of that off, there’s the sexual revolution that has made sex outside of marriage much more acceptable, the explosion of other time wasters that keep people in the house instead of interacting, like the Internet, DVR, and video games, and societal factors like the rise of gay marriage and the acceptance of children born out of wedlock.

With all those factors in play, sadly and to the detriment of our society, marriage is probably never going to be as central to life in the Western world as it used to be.

PS: Although promoting marriage is without a doubt good for society, it doesn’t necessarily follow that anything and everything that reduces the number of marriages is a bad thing. For example, it’s hard to argue that it’s bad that women having more economic opportunities or Americans having access to the Internet is a bad thing. All this post does is acknowledge that, yes, there are some consequences and trade-offs being made that we may not have fully recognized.

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