Monday, January 22, 2007

War on the marrying class

Not all marriages turn out to form families but that is still the best arrangement I know of. So I found this article in the NYTimes rather interesting. I will paste a few quotes but RTFA, all of it please because its an eye opener.
It’s worth repeating: the “marriage gap” isn’t about men and women. It’s about class and education.
The emerging gulf is instead one of class — what demographers, sociologists and those who study the often depressing statistics about the wedded state call a “marriage gap” between the well-off and the less so.
Why have things changed so much for women who don’t have the choices that educated women have? While marriage used to be something you did before launching a life or career, now it is seen as something you do after you’re financially stable — when you can buy a house, say. The same is true for all classes. But the less educated may not get there.
“The way we used to look at marriage was that if women were highly educated, they had higher earning power, they were more culturally liberal and people might have predicted less marriage among them,” Mr. Martin said. “What’s becoming more powerful is the idea that economic resources are conducive to stable marriages. Women who have more money or the potential for more money are married to men who have more stable income.”

This would not be much of a surprise to you if you understood the economics of a nation that has its tax laws written by the lawyers of corporations and the very wealthy.
As Thom Hartmann explains it in his book SCREWED the undeclared war against the middle class, the forces that presently have the upper hand in setting up and taking away legal and tax advantages could not care less about the middle class. Family values and middle class! Who in this administration would have thought they had anything to do with each other? Of course, for them "Family Values" doesn't mean "make it easy for people to stay in a relationship" but rather its an empty pass phrase to mollify fundamentalists.

Gay marriage won't destroy the institution. But not being able to afford marriage seems to be doing a pretty good job. The Republicans are the party that is "for" family? My ass they are!

Just because you are still screwing doesn't mean you aren't already screwed.

Yes a very interesting survey. And my little rant were better lodged at A Bomb A Nation except for one little sentence in the article. It had one passing assertion about why men put off marriage which, if accurate, reeks of an antique sexism: "They don’t trust women to tell the truth about past relationships,..." Really, I am aware there are men like that. Don't they know that if that is their worry, it comes from insecurity and they will never be free of it by virtue of which woman they choose? Nor does the poor woman particularly deserve to live with a man chasing such ghosts...he should never marry and thus spare two heartaches. [Lets just see if Amanda picks that up slaps me with it!]


Sister Novena said...

One factor that was kind of glossed over in the article, but which I think is actually the key issue:

Marriage, most often, is quickly followed by pregnancy. And motherhood is more often than not a death knell for a woman's professional career -- or at the very least an enormous disruption. If a woman's work is important to her, obviously she'll be inclined to put off marriage for as long as possible -- the career she makes prior to marriage may be as far as she ever gets.

Obviously fatherhood impacts a man's career as well (though often for the better), but he's never really asked to choose between his role as a father and his role as a productive member of society with aspirations and ambitions. I strongly suspect that with some enlightened parental leave policies and non-discrimination laws protecting mothers in the workplace, upwardly-mobile, motherhood-inclined women would be willing to marry and start families earlier. But until then, the cost of having a child and the risk posed to a woman's personal growth is just too great to accept until she feels solidly established.

That's how I personally see it, anyway, and I bet I'm not alone. At 31, I haven't even begun to consider the prospect of motherhood -- in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I never get around to it. I can't afford it on any level, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

GreenSmile said...

was it glossed over? There was a paragraph or at least a sentence or two on the calculation [rather accurate, considering all circumstances] that women make: pregnancy will mark the beginning of a plateau in their earning power.

fatherhood should impact a mans trajectory through the world of work. But for some, it will be marked by longer hours of absence from the home, in mindless response to a preconcieved idea that bringing home money is all they are good for and more mouthes need more money.

My wife has a MS, I have a BS both of us in the employable math/science category. The first kid was not planned but we tossed her in day care by the time she was two and the missus hardly took a break from work for the boys when they came along. We did have a decent but not progressive employer [DEC, may it rest in peace] so even with less than the full support [she got 4 weeks, I got sympathy] That much encouragement is more than enough when the urge/will to bring forth kids is running your minds. I think I am agreeing with your "would be willing to marry..." except to qualify it for the biases that we each have about wanting kids in the first place...Me, I just happen to think I have no other purpose wired into me and make up all my other objectives as I learn.

If parenthood, for reasons out of your control, can't be an option, I would be angry. If its an unappealing option, certainly that is your choice.

Gerry said...

GS, you said: "If parenthood, for reasons out of your control, can't be an option, I would be angry."

Yes, but what can be done to fix it?

Anyway, I think the planet is over-populated by about a factor of ten, so I lose no sleep that people are not marrying (assuming marriage is for having babies).

When I become Dictator Of Planet Earth, GS, I will decree that only the 10% most educated people will be given marriage permits. That will fix all sorts of problems.

Also, I would make blogging so hellishly expensive so that people in my current socio-economic stratum would not be able to afford it, thereby saving the world from these kinds of rants. :-)

GreenSmile said...

factor of ten, eh? I agree. I just can't figure out as easily as you, which 90% it would be ethical to bump off.

Gerry said...

Touché, GS.

But are you saying that we mustn't discuss the population explosion unless we are prepared to top ourselves first?

GreenSmile said...

Sister said: "Marriage, most often, is quickly followed by pregnancy.
I do not have hard numbers on this but I suspect that married or unmarried, educated women delay having children more than women who have not had the resources to get an education. In other words, I suspect that there is a declining trend for one demographic of women such that "most often" is "less and less often" and "quickly followed" is becoming "eventually followed". On the other hand, in those hopeless corners where expectations are low or religious sanctions are high the thing I would say is:
Pregnancy, most often, is quickly followed by marriage.

GreenSmile said...

Gerry: Of course you can discuss the problems of overpopulation, including speculation on more and less draconian solutions. But people have talked about the problem since the days of Malthus. In all that time and talk no dent has been made in the progression toward overpopulation except to emancipate and offer equal education and employment opportunities to women, a solution that some countries and cultures are not endowed or inclined to pursue.

I should then say "you need a license to do something about runaway population growth."


And since the post was actually on the topic of what kind of economic and tax policies are healthiest for the institution of marriage...and we just sort of drifted onto the topic of populaton [related, I grant you], I want to sharpen a couple of points:
1. The numbers in the survey do show that the financially stable woman is more apt to be in a stable marriage, or any marriage at all. If that is combined with the general observation that the better educated and employed and more affluent a woman is, the lower her life time contribution to the birth rate will be on average, I think we should find a correlation between tax policies that strenghten and enlarge the financial health of the middle class and declining birth rates among the middle class.

2. I have to admit, basically in agreement with Sister, that outside of Noel Coward plays, marriages that are, from the outset, intended to be childless, are kinda rare. That even goes for gay marriages. The few lesbian couples I know all have kids by adoption or other means.