The XX Factor

Marriage Is Increasingly a “Better Deal” for Men

There’s a new report out from the Pew Research Center called “The Rise of Wives .” According to the new research, more and more men are married to women with higher levels of education and earning power than they have. The Washington Post quotes the report’s co-author Richard Fry as saying , “What’s radically changed is that marriage now is a better deal for men.” In 1970, unmarried men did better economically than married men, but now that’s not the case, Fry says. Marriage rates overall have declined. In 1970, 84 percent of people ages 30-44 were married. Now only 60 percent of people in that age range are wed.

At the same time, there are slew of books out just this year that involve educated women lamenting the difficulty they’ve had in finding a mate: Marry Him , by Lori Gottleib, In Her Own Sweet Time , by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, and A Little Bit Married by Hannah Seligson are among them. While the first two are memoirs, Seligson’s is more of a self-help workbook for people (mostly women) who are stuck in long term, “marriage-lite” relationships and want to figure out if they should get married or cut ties. She has an article in the Daily Beast today listing the reasons why people are so reluctant to get married. One of the reasons that she gives is that men do not want to settle down unless they feel like they are economically secure. “Careers are now something we have many of and the path to them is often murky, at best. … For men in particular, this new order of events is causing an interference with mating-research has consistently shown that whether and when a man marries is closely tied to the adequacy and stability of his earnings.”

Here’s the rub: Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz tells NPR that women don’t care that much about male career establishment anymore. According to Coontz, women say “overwhelmingly-87 percent-that it’s more important to have a man who can communicate well, who can be intimate and who will share the housework than to have someone who makes more money than you do.” Perhaps that’s part of why the marriage rate has dropped considerably - modern men and women want different things, and their desires are not yet aligned.

Photograph of couple by Photodisc/Getty Images.