There's been a steady decline in marriage rates over the past few decades. While some studies blame the decline on gender ratio discrepancies and millennials just not being interested in marriage, a 2019 Cornell University study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) says the root cause might be that there aren’t as many men who are economically stable and therefore are not attractive to women looking for a mate.
The study notes that ethnic minorities, especially African American women, are dealing with very low numbers of economically attractive potential mates.
Researchers found that attractive potential husbands had an average income approximately 58% higher than the current unmarried men.
“Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs,” said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, Ph.D., of Cornell University in their media release. “Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.”
A 2016 study, also published in the JMF, found that women have made greater educational gains than men during the past few decades in the U.S. Among newlyweds:
- The percentage of couples in which the husband had more education than the wife declined from 24 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2008–2012.
- The share of couples in which the wife had more education than the husband increased from 22 percent to 29 percent during the same period.
- If two spouses differed in their level of education, in 1980 the husband was more likely be more educated, but from 2008 to 2012, the wife was more likely to have more education.
Less than a decade ago, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and Kay Hymowitz, fellow at the Manhattan Institute, expressed their concerns about what is happening to boys. Each made comments similar to “pre-adult men often seem like children, filling their leisure time with video games, Adam Sandler movies, indie bands, beer pong and the company of inebriated women.”
Along with them, others were raising voices of concern, stating these 2011 statistics:
- Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out or flunk out of school than girls.
- Girls now outperform guys at every level from elementary to graduate school.
- Two-thirds of all students in special education are boys.
- Boys are five times more likely to be labeled ADHD.
- By the time boys are 21, they have played more than 10,000 video games, mostly in isolation.
- The average boy watches 50 porn clips a week.
Zimbardo noted that one of the most interesting things he was seeing in his research is what he refers to as the “social intensity syndrome” where guys prefer the asynchronistic internet world over the spontaneous interaction in social relationships.
Many studies show that boys continue to lag behind girls. Additional studies show that the gap is widening as women continue to make educational and financial gains and are seeking to marry men who are also educated and financially secure. Both of these studies published in the JMF indicate that women want to marry, but can’t find a partner they consider to at least be their educational and financial equal.
None of this means that a woman (or a man) should marry for money instead of love or that they should believe that who makes the money or how much each person makes won’t impact their relationship. There is plenty of research indicating that money impacts marital stability and is often the source of much stress in marriage, especially when expectations around money go unspoken, which isn’t helpful to the relationship. It is important for couples to be on the same page when it comes to money, education and expectations.
Instead, the question for us is, “Why are boys lagging behind?” and what can we do about it? What will we do about it? We will continue to fail our boys and our girls if we sit back and do nothing, but the results of that would seemingly be disastrous for men, women and children.
This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 27, 2019.