Munro: Cornell Study Shows Stagnant Wages Hurting Marriage in U.S.

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Fewer women get married when fewer men earn a decent salary in an unstable economy, says a study from Cornell University.

“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 Lichter, a professor at Cornell University. He continued:

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.

The study looked at wages and marriage rates from 2008 to 2017, and concluded that “promoting good jobs may ultimately be the best marriage promotion policy,” says the study, which is titled “Mismatches in the Marriage Market,” and was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study is useful for the populist wing of the GOP, because it shows that rising wages for men in President Donald Trump’s low-immigration economy is good for women’s romantic aspirations and marriage rates. Other data shows that married people — especially women — are far more likely to vote GOP than single people.

Correspondingly, the bad news about wages and marriage is good news for the Democratic Party, which will get extra votes from women if federal policies continue to suppress wages for American men.

The study did not try to show how marriage rates have been impacted by the various federal policies which have flatlined men’s wages for 40 years.

For example, the federal policy of flooding the labor market with immigrants has flatlined wages nationwide for at least two decades. Also, President Barack Obama’s failure to curb opioids — and his reluctance to favor American workers over ‘DACA’ illegals — helped to push millions of Americans out of the workforce and many into their graves.

The Cornell study validated conservatives’ view that women are different from men, and prefer to marry men who earn a higher wage or salary. The press statement said:

The study’s authors developed estimates of the sociodemographic characteristics of unmarried women’s potential spouses who resemble the husbands of otherwise comparable married women. These estimates were compared with the actual distribution of unmarried men at the national, state, and local levels.

Women’s potential husbands had an average income that was about 58% higher than the actual unmarried men currently available to unmarried women. They also were 30% more likely to be employed and 19% more likely to have a college degree.

Middle-class women have the best chance of finding a man who earns more money, the study says.

Low-income women live among men with very little income, partly because they are in jail or are suffering from drugs. And the many women who earn above $40,000 a year face intense competition for the relatively fewer number of men who make more than $65,000 a year.

This shortage of prosperous men means that many high-income women must marry down, the study said. “Women may instead ‘settle’ for a marital match that falls short of their aspirations in a spouse ... This will be expressed in nepatterns of marital hypogamy or downward marital mobility,” the study said. 

The problem is worse for women who seek husbands later in life, for example, after spending years in university education:

For example, older women on average were much less likely a suitable marital match ... This is especially true among women who were highly educated ... A 10% increase in age among women with a college degree was associated with a 24.48 percentage point decrease in the likelihood of a suitable match. In contrast, age mattered much less among the least-educated women—those with high school degree or less who had only a 4.47  percentage point decrease in finding a match. One implication was that delaying marriage, for whatever reason but perhaps especially if pursuing college degrees, had the effect of reducing women’s local-area access to demographically suited marital partners.

Future studies will examine divorce rates among marriages where women recognize that they earn more than their husbands. 


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