ITHACA, N.Y. — Marriage rates have steadily declined over the past few decades, and now researchers from Cornell University are offering up a possible explanation: there just aren’t as many economically-attractive men for unmarried women to meet as there used to be.
Previous studies had attempted to answer why marriage rates are on the decline, but most focused solely on gender ratio discrepancies as opposed to looking into the specific socioeconomic characteristics that make a particular man and woman a good match.
First, the study’s authors examined data collected on recent marriages between 2007-2012 and 2013-2017, gathered as part of the American Community Survey’s cumulative 5-year marriage statistics. That data was used to estimate the financial and sociodemographic characteristics of unmarried women’s potential husbands by creating economic profiles that resembled real husbands who had married comparable women. These potential husband estimates were then compared to actual population data on unmarried men across national, state, and local locations.
Researchers found that these estimated potential “dream” husbands had an average income about 58% higher than the actual unmarried men currently available to unmarried women. These synthetic husbands were also 30% more likely to be employed than real single men and 19% more likely to have a college degree.
It was also observed that many racial and ethnic minorities, specifically African American women, seem to be dealing with especially low numbers of economically attractive potential mates. Additionally, women on both the low end and high end of the socioeconomic spectrum face a harder time finding an economically compatible mate.
“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,” explains lead author Dr. Daniel T. Lichter of Cornell University, in a media release. “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 is published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.