Demand, meet supply
019 United States - American marriages.mp3
Most Americans would get married, if only they could find someone suitable
1. AS A high-powered media executive in New York city, Leah had been wary of marriage. After seeing other women get “mommy-tracked” at work, she was ambivalent about letting children compromise her career. But love has a way of making a hash of plans, and these days she and her husband manage two full-time jobs and the care of their 18-month-old daughter. Leah still works nearly 50 hours a week and earns a bit more than her husband, but she also handles most of the routine caregiving, cooking and cleaning at home. Juggling everything often leaves her feeling “inadequate,” she admits, but she chalks it up to the struggle of trying to have it all. “Rich world problems, right?” she says with a chuckle.
2. While fewer women are marching to the altar—the proportion of those married before the age of 30 has fallen from 50% in 1960 to around 20% today—the ones that do increasingly look like Leah. Highly educated, financially independent women were once among the least likely to get hitched. Now they are getting married at a faster rate than their lesser-educated peers, and often to highly educated men. These unions are not only the most common, but also the most harmonious. New data show that America’s divorce rate has continued its plunge from its 1981 peak—from 5.3 to 3.2 divorces per 1,000 people in 2014—but this decline is largely concentrated among the better-educated. Among college graduates who married in the early 2000s, only around 11% divorced within seven years, according to data from Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan.
3. This has created a fairly uneven marriage market. Although the returns to a college education have risen sharply in recent decades, America’s college-graduation rate has been inching up slowly, and now hovers at around 40%. Women make up a growing share: those born in 1975, for example, were around 20% more likely to complete a four-year degree than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, women with less education are stuck with a stock of less-appealing men. Women of nearly all levels of education have seen their earning power climb since the 1970s, while the earnings of men without a college degree have fallen between 5% and 25%, according to David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, both economists at MIT. Less-educated men also tend to have more anachronistic views about who should do what at home: they are not only less comfortable with partnerships in which women earn more, they also tend to be less-attentive parents and less helpful around the house than their better-educated peers.
4. This asymmetry is especially profound for African-American women, whose store of available men has been whittled down further by higher rates of incarceration and mortality. Inter-racial marriage is becoming more common but remains relatively rare. Black women are half as likely as black men to marry someone of another hue, according to the Pew Research Centre. Mismatched desires among lesser-educated men and women have shrunk the share of households headed by a married couple from two-thirds in 1960 to less than half today. The proportion of children being raised by a single parent has more than doubled in the past four decades. More than seven in ten births to African-American women are outside marriage.
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Concentrating gains from marriage at the top has exacerbated existing trends in inequality.
5. On most measures, the children of married couples are already more likely to fare better than those with single parents. But well-educated parents often have more money for schools, safer neighbourhoods and nutritious food, and fewer children to invest in (owing to the higher opportunity cost of child-rearing for career-oriented women). Well-educated parents spend more time with their children than their less-educated peers. For mothers the gap is only a few extra hours a week, but among fathers the difference is considerable: those with a job and a college degree spend more than double the time of less-educated men, according to Jonathan Guryan of Northwestern University and his co-authors.
6.Having fewer sprogs makes it easier to continue this support through early adulthood, which more parents seem to be doing. Nearly 43% of all young men (ages 18 to 34) and more than a third of all young women have yet to flee the nest, according to a new Pew analysis of census data. This boom in late-bloomers may be another sign of privilege. A recent paper from the New York Fed found that this trend can largely be attributed to the surge in student debt over the past decade or so, and it is better-off children who tend to enroll in college in the first place. Children from homes with an annual income of over $108,650, for example, are nearly twice as likely to enroll than those from homes that make less than $34,160, according to a report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.
7.Yet while marriage has been transformed, the roles played by each partner in the home have been slower to change. A recent Pew study found that in households where both parents work full time, more of the day-to-day parenting responsibilities fall to women. Mothers are twice as likely as fathers to say that being a working parent has hurt their careers, in no small part because many employers still function according to a single breadwinner model. This is slowly changing, particularly as more women start out-earning men. In couples with two full-time working parents, 26% of women earn around the same amount as their partners, and 22% earn more, according to Pew.
8.Conservative policymakers often argue that getting poorer women to marry will improve the lot of their children. But programmes to encourage more people to wed never seem to work. This is largely because most Americans are already quite convinced of the value of marriage, and even poorer people hold the institution in high regard, according to a new survey of public views of the American family from Deseret News and Brigham Young University. Most agree that marriage is the best arrangement for raising children, and many still hope to trade vows one day. Unlike Europeans, who are moving away from marriage, even younger Americans generally expect to put a ring on it, and view cohabitation as a practical step along the way.
9.The distance between the number of people with favourable views of marriage and the number actually getting married is best explained by this: many of the marriages available do not offer a good deal for women. Yet those who assume the breakdown of the nuclear family reflects a growing crisis of morals might otherwise take heart: the decline in marriage in America has coincided with a similarly precipitous decline in juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy and adolescent drug-use, and fewer children are dropping out of high-school. Those who still hope to woo more people to the altar might keep in mind that the marriage market is ultimately like any market: people buy in if the price is right.
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