Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fewer People Getting Married - An Issue Of Economics

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Marriage: What's Love Got To Do With It?

I have seen several reports over the past few months that say that fewer Americans are getting married. In fact, married people are now the minority. The prospects are even worse for Black women, with all the problems with finding "suitable" Black men. Furthermore, Americans who do decide to marry are generally waiting longer. But few of the reports dare to mention the real reason behind the decline.

Fewer marriages are no surprise. It basically comes down to economics. Few news outlets look at the relationship between marriage and money. What is marriage really??? Marriage is basically an arrangement or contract of economic convenience….and it’s been that way for Centuries. This was especially the case up until the 1950’s and 60’s, when fewer women worked (right before the Nuclear Family began to fade). Women were more dependent on men for financial security at that time.

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Today, women are able to (& are encouraged to) make their own money. As a consequence, dating and marriage options for men are getting tougher, especially over the past 10-20 years. Women have generally had more options in terms of being more picky about who they choose. But in the last decade or so, with the cost of living increasing, women are once again seeking financial security. So now we have a situation where women still have options, but when they do settle on a mate, it is usually after a longer and more scrutinizing process. Why? Because women are looking for men who have reached a certain level financially. Women can now afford to be more picky on the question of money, and they are taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Now, what do women primarily look for in a mate? Good careers, & success (financial prowess)- these are the primary benchmarks, despite anything else you hear. It basically comes down to money. Women seek men who can provide “Security”, and for many women, “Security”= financial security. Women judge men & determine who they want to date based on a guys financial worth. Everything else is secondary to this pre-condition. A mans success with women is ultimately tied to his career or how well he is doing financially. Generally, the more money he has, the more successful he will be with dating. The less money he has, the worse off he will be in terms of opportunities with women. A "well-off" man is often the ideal. Look at all of the TV shows that reinforce this norm. Most women will say "financially stable", but this is just code for a very steady & "comfortable" income.

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Women are checking a mans ability to provide a home & steady income for her and the children. The Bread Winner role, has been the role of men since the beginning of time. But in today’s economy it is becoming harder and harder for men to play this role. In fact, I think it’s harder now than ever.
Studies show it time and time again. About half of marriages end in divorce. And the #1 reason for most of these divorces????? You guessed it. MONEY. When men hit hard times....get laid off, fired, etc, usually the next thing to go is the wife and family. That's why so many men go postal when they lose their jobs or source of income. They know that the loss of their job and income will probably lead to the loss of their wives and children (not in all cases of course...but it many cases, this is often the eventual result). So I can understand why these men snap. I don't condone it.... but I understand it. Men today are under enormous social and economic strain to prove that they are "worthy". In decades and Centuries past, if a man owned a little land, if he could farm, if he could hunt and live off of the land, or if he had some sort of manufacturing or industrial job.... that was considered enough. He was considered worthy and viable as a date, boyfriend, husband, etc. Today, this is no longer good enough. So in many ways, we are under more strain than our forefathers, despite the Civil War, WWII, the Depression, Social Injustice (civil rights era), Vietnam, etc.

In the last several years, it has become harder for men to find meaningful employment (emphasis on the word meaningful). This is leading to a situation where 90% of available women are competing for the same 10-20% of available men…. (the men who happen to be the top wage earners in this country). Women are less willing to “settle” for the other 80-90% of men. That’s right, women who don’t get the Attorney or CEO hunk, or the Entertainer type, consider the hardworking guy who earns $25,000 or $30,000 busting his ass at some bull---- (Republican economy) service job, as something that they “settle” for. This is what is leading to fewer marriages. Women are waiting longer and longer…. Hoping to get something more than the $25,000 per year loser. It’s becoming a common situation to find 30 something and 40 something women who are single, waiting to run across a high wage earner (that means at least $50,000-$60,000 per year).

So what is a guy to do? On one hand there is this economy where it is harder to get a good paying job, with the job security and benefits that people need. In fact, employers are decreasing the amount of benefits that they offer and are looking at more ways to cut their payrolls (I work for one of these dreadful companies). Yet on the other hand, there is this Oprah, Bachelor & Bachelorette TV show, Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire female culture that tells women that they should marry into wealth. In fact, women are taught this from the time that they are old enough to play with dolls…. It comes from their mothers, from society in general, where it is reinforced by what they see on Television. Now i'm not blaming women.... I say go for it. I'm just pointing out that for men, it is becoming harder to meet these requirements.

Sure, jobs are plentiful, but as I have suggested, that’s misleading. Jobs are not good enough anymore…. What men need today are careers, not jobs. Jobs are plentiful, but careers are harder to obtain. There is a big difference between “jobs” and “careers”. If you’re lucky you can find a job that pays $25,000-$30,000 per year ($13-$15 per hour) with decent benefits. If you’re lucky. But this amount of income is not enough to provide for a family. Soon, there will be no meaningful benefits provided at all, as companies cut back. A man is hard pressed to find a woman, marry and raise a family on that kind of income. It’s hard to even date and meet someone when you are in that Socio-economic class.

Careers on the other hand, pay considerably more and usually require AT LEAST a Bachelors Degree and more often require a graduate education….or some special skill learned through Trade school. But competition for “career” employment is becoming more fierce. There are more people coming out of college and more people being laid-off & re-entering the job market than there are good jobs or careers opening up to absorb them. This leaves more good workers in the workforce each year and thus increases competion. Bush keeps touting his employment figures, but they don’t tell the American people what kind of jobs are counted in those figures. Seasonal work, Part-time work, Temp Agency work, certain internships, and low paying service jobs are all included in those figures. In fact, low wage jobs and Temporary Agency jobs make up the majority of the monthly jobs figures that are put out by the Department of Labor. With good paying manufacturing jobs being outsourced overseas or eliminated due to global competition, and with slow growth in other industries in this country, good paying work is harder to come by.

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In other words, the pool of “viable” men is limited. “Viable” meaning men with incomes (at least) at or near $50,000 per year. Women have a narrow definition of what “viable” means to them. But it is this economic reality that is creating this social condition. Some call these women Gold Diggers… There is some truth to that. Who can really blame women these days? Hell, if I had the opportunity to marry money, I probably would. Not saying that this is the moral or virtuous thing to do. I would personally want to have a genuine relationship above all else. But economics dictate a lot of these relationships. Women will act based on what will benefit them & their children financially in the long run. Others might say that this is a casualty of modern capitalism, with the fierce global competition that is sucking jobs out of the U.S. Both are probably correct. All of it is related and connected.

But I see this problem continuing to get worse. I don’t see the prospects for College graduates improving….unless they go into a field such as Medicine, or the legal profession, or obtain a rare special skill that will be in demand (I should have gone into the time I realized this, it was too late for me to change college majors. But my dumb ass wanted to go into the Social Sciences to save the world....That decision- I am convinced- has led to my single status and financial struggles.).

I am one of those Americans who busts their asses for the lower yearly incomes mentioned above. Let’s just say that women are not exactly knocking down my door for dates, lol. My life experience has proven a lot of this to be true. If I do meet someone and marry, I will be well into my 40’s or 50’s when my financial status has improved (when my stock rises so to speak). I have yet to reach the level of “viability” that is required.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this. Our society is so materialistic that we see the purpose of everything, including marriage, as being making money. That's not what it's about though. My husband makes about 1/5 of what I do but I knew that coming in seven years ago and I don't think I settled. Sometimes when I talk to my girls who married someone with an MBA and they're going to Spain for two weeks of vacation, I wish he had one too, but ultimately, that's not what it's about to me. What people forget is that money comes and goes. Money is not going to make someone have the character they really need to make a marriage work (look at Donald Trump or Eddie Murphy.)

Brian said...

Thanks Liz

I would say that you are a rarity then. Most women consider money to be the top 1 or 2 most important factors when deciding on a mate.

Marriages were better back in the 1800's or the 1920's, and 30's when EVERYBODY was struggling and there was no fairytale expectation among women in the society. Back then, it was all about the company and the attention of the other person. You could go to the local diner.... share a bite to eat...have a rootbear float...and take a walk...and that was considered a great date.

Men today are expected to be the "Bachelor" guy, with a huge salary....great looks, great career, nice cars, etc (and that's just to be able to ask a woman out.). It has become so predictable. And I see so many guys dealing with this nonsense.

That's why I don't date... Why bother? It's such a sham.

I'm going to wait a few more years before I decide to deal with that.... meanwhile, i'm trying to build my portfolio.

Anonymous said...

I can agree with you on the fact that majority of americanized women are materialistic. A woman i was interested in told me specifically to keep in touch with her after i land a career with a game design company, but as for now as an unemployed man depending on his parents for the sake of getting a BA degree in game arts and design, as of yet she does not want to have anything to do with me until i start making money. Women admire a man that is committed and will stay by that mans side, but the same for those good men out there like me for example, 21, no kids, 5'11, 195 lbs(not fat not skinny), well dressed, nissan 300zx 1990, black and proud! I admire a woman that will get with a man who has not yet become of sucess and will be there by his side until he makes it. She does not want to even talk to you EVEN IF YOU HAVE PLANS AND GOALS AND SPECIFICALLY SHOWING THAT YOU ARE WORKING TOWARDS THOSE GOALS IN LIFE. After she told me that i didnt even want to talk to her any more because I feel that why should I give her a commitment if you will only commit yourself to me if and only if i meet certain financial status whereas if I go broke after the so called "I do's" and "till death do us part" she wants a divorce. Id rather save my money and call a hooker every night knowing that that hooker is only there for the money anyway. But you dont get those kind of women to support you even if your broke these days like my parents. My mom is an arbitrator and makes a lot more than my father, but she still supports him whether he has low income or no income. Thats the kind of woman i want. A woman that will not be ashamed of a mans wealthlessness or valuelessness. A man already gotta be in the career field. I recomend finding a southern girl from a place where not much goes on. Southern women will talk to you if they see that you are trying. Or date women from other countries cuz they treat you better and they are not as hard to please they are not at all materialistic. Majority of american women are so selfish and self centered sorry to say but its the truth. NOT ALL AMERICAN WOMAN, BUT MAJORITY OF THEM i SAID. A little advice for you women, find a man who is nothing but has goals and see to it that he is working towards his goals, if he is then get with him and be that "ride or die" girl for him. women would have better chances on getting a commiting man if women would humble themselves and be grateful for the little bit that a man can do. send responses to

"J.B. Achelors" is my name.
look forward to getting responses on other peoples perspectives male and female. ciao!

Anonymous said...

it is not about materialism so much as logic...used to be that women couldn't make much money and married a man and cleaned his house and organized his life and had his children and he would bring home the bacon and she'd fry it up. Now that women make money for themselves, there are not too many men who help with women's old role and pitch in with the house and so there are not many incentives for getting married. If you have your own income, and friends and family for companionship, having a man means no more than having another person to pick up after, and there are vibrators out there for sex, so really, why have a guy, especially one who makes less than you do and expects you to wash his dirty socks that he drops on the floor. These men can just bugger off and get a mail order bride who wants to escape her country, or start helping out their American women more.

Brian said...
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Anonymous said...

the last comment is exactly what is wrong with these "materialistic" women today.First of all i agree TOTALLY with what the author was talking about. these women who say whats the point of getting a man since having a man means no more than having another person to pick up after,why have a guy, especially one who makes less than you do and expects you to wash his dirty socks that he drops on the floor. These women need to step out of fucking past and understand all men are not like that just like all women aren't all sluts! Its not logic that guide them(materialistic women), its the glint of silver. Love is not logical and if you noticed you didn't even speak of that. women who say they don't need men almost Always feel the result of their ignorance when they run in to their friends 20yrs later not rich but HAPPILY married with children. Especially those that married for money, lost their beauty(since it really doesn't last forever) and are stuck at home alone drinking wine cause their "suitable" husband is out cheating with a younger girl. but hey i don't care to try and change materialistic women just do one thing: try asking your vibrator if it still loves you after 40yrs or try taking it to your high school reunion.

Anonymous said...

well said

Anonymous said...

Liz has ratiolized her choice. Thats typical human behavior, they tend to rationalize - and in the process "feel" happy about them. Its much more complicated than that ( ie factoring in other choices at time, overall level of happiness from other sources etc). see on happiness

But coming to the main article, what is it that men really want - the author has not discussed this. Lets say I get married to one of those 80% girls who want those top 20% guys. lets say I am one of those top 205 guy - Lets do simple calculations.

Say a girl married that tyipical MBA guy

(And I am being very conservative in these estimates - you can do your own and come up with a number)
Cost of Food : $50/day * 30 days = $1500/month?
Cost of expenses : Mobile, movies, theater, utilities, travel, make-up, spa, nails, hair etc = $700/month ?
Cost of Rent : (say half the rent in a $4000 apt ?) = $2000/mo
Total : $4200/month

Say you get married at 30 and live together for 40 more years (both of you die at 70)

So thats 40*12 = 480 months

Assuming inflation = interest rate in bank ( very unlikely more often than not inflation will run you over - still lets come up with lower bound)

So lower bound of total cost = $4200*480 = about $2 million dollars

Plus there is cost of independence, cost of constant nagging, cost of "do i look fat", cost of "where were you for two hours" etc.

So a man is entering into this contract promising over 2 million dollars to spend and losing independence and peace (piece?) of his mind - for an emotion called love ???? - which btw is dopamine controlled in your brain and one can easily get bored at same levels of dopamine !!!!

You are better off giving this money to some charity - build a school or hospital in developing country - at least your name will live forever.

Unless of course, guy marries a girl who can support herself. - But then why do i see tendency in career women to become "homely" and give up their incomes to "do something else" after marriage ???

Anonymous said...

I am happily married and my husband doesn't make much. Marrying for money is crazy. Let's use the $2 million for 40 year deal. If you invest in yourself and obtain proper education for the goal of earning money, you can easily make 50,000 a year and that times 40 is $2 million. I know many immigrants from very poor background obtain that type of salary after 5-10 years in America, so it's definitely possible. I know I rather earn my own money than take it from someone else because it's WAY easier and more gratifying to do it yourself. However, women do like to see an ambitious and driven man who obtain some recognizable success even if that man happen to be a penniless artist whose art gain universal recognition but makes no profit. A woman want to support and be proud of a man who is passionate about what he does and is great at what he does. It's not about the money.

Anonymous said...

I didn't care about marrying a man with money. I preferred someone I could relate to--and those men tended to be teachers, social workers, nonprofit workers, etc. I did want him to be hardworking and have a vision for life--but lots of money was not necessary. Then again, I prefer simple living. And I can make my own money if I want more luxuries on top of his adequate income.

Brian said...

Anonymous @7:50

Then I would say you are in the minority. More the exception than the rule.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I am now one of these women.

I found most men to be unreliable and useless (no offense). I grew up with a mom who spoiled my little brother. I did all the chores, including his laundry, cooking his meals, making his bed along with mine. I even microwave food for him because he didn't know how until he was 18. I did all this yet my brother was paid allowance 3 times more than me and all he did was play video games all day.

All life ever taught me was men will take advantage. Men have very little to offer.

Anonymous said...

I love this article. It lays out my exact thoughts.

Brian said...

Wrote this 5 years ago... and its more true today than it was then.

Anonymous said...

I was reading this article because my husband and I were talking about how fewer people are getting married these days. (Namely my 2 baby sisters.)
My sister that is 30 years old was married last Saturday. I love my brother in law, but come on 3 years dating? She wanted to be married so badly. They loved each other. So there is no way she would ever date someone else during that time. When they finally got engaged he said, "I don't know why I waited so long. this is great."
My other sister is a Doctor and 32. She wants to be married so badly. Everytime she meets someone, she is confronted with guys who just want to go to bed with her, they get furious when she tells them she wants to wait until she's married. No respect.
They look at her home with dollar signs in their eyes, expecting her to pay for everything.
Then she has to compete with Alcohol(bars) and porn for mens attention.
Great article, but I think moral decay has just as much to do with this as the economy.
We have been married for 21 years. We have 6 children. I dated alot. And I married the poorest guy I had ever dated.
We have experienced college, unemployment, health issues, crying babies, teenagers, mortgage payments, bills, bills and more bills. We have been poor, We've had successes. But we hold on to our values together, work hard together, play together and are committed to each other.
Even though life has thrown us some blows. We go through it together, and it makes us stronger as a couple and as a family.
Family is no longer the top priority of the majority. I hope that changes soon.
Best of luck finding that special someone! You men have had it hard lately.
So have the women.

Angela said...

I don't understand why us women don't get off our asses and make our own damn money. Don't get married don't have children, we are suppose to be moving forward as far as equal rights between men and women, and women who wait around for a man to take care of her is not helping our situation. Some times I'm very disapointed in my fellow female companions.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with the post about lots of men expecting women to be like the women in the olden days, to clean everything and do everything around the house, along while they work their 40 to 50 hour week jobs. I thankfully don't have any children of my own, but honestly, lots of the time I do feel like lots of men these days will just take advantage. It's not right, and lots of men still need to get with the times. With women working harder out of the home and contributing more financially, then men should contribute more at home. But lots of them aren't, and it's a real shame. I really do believe that that is why men are having problems finding good women, there are lots of good women out there are not gold diggers, but the reason why I think the real biggest reason that there are so many single men who are having a hard time finding a relationship is because these men are happy to have the woman contribute financially, equally, if not sometimes more, but these same men are not happy to contribute atleast equally at home. And us women shouldn't have to ask either, men should help out of respect and appreciation, and out of fairness.

Anonymous said...

I am indeed sickened by how many gold digging women are out there. It might be partly due to the fact though, that if the women does contribute equally financially, she is almost guaranteed to be working harder her whole life, because lots of men haven't adapted to this fact that women can contribute financially, so the men should have to help out more with the home chores. What's the point in working hard to pay half the bills when lots of men just wanna sit on their ass while at home, while the women clean everything after working all day at the office? So with that said, I kind of don't blame women for seeking out career successful men, because lots of men don't want to help with the house chores.

Unknown said...

Focus and commitment do not seem to be a part of many relationships nowadays. People don't wanna hang in there thru the tough times, we are quick to throw upn our hands and move on to the next relationship.

War and Trade said...

All women are materialistic...Its in their blood. Thats why they get take your stuff....