Declining marriage incentives and male withdrawal from the labor force

Why have so many young men withdrawn from the U.S. labor force since 1965? This paper presents a model in which men invest time in employment to enhance their value as marriage partners. When the marriage market return on this investment declines, young men’s employment declines as well, in preparation for a less favorable marriage market. Taking this prediction to data, I show that fewer young men sought employment after 2 interventions that reduced the value of gender-role-specialization within marriage: i) the adoption of unilateral divorce legislation, and ii) demand-driven improvements in women’s employment opportunities. I then show, using a structural estimation, that half of the employment effect of a labor market shock to men’s wages is determined by endogenous adjustment of the marriage market to the shock. These findings establish the changing marriage market as an important driver of decline in young men’s labor market involvement.

That is from the job market paper of Ariel J. Binder, job market candidate from the University of Michigan.


At first, I tend to look at papers like this as 'hammer strikes to the head cause head injuries' papers. Then I remember that there's a giant movement to deny the obvious and that papers like this can be very important and useful.

"the obvious "
The old adage, two can live as cheaply as one rings true.
There is a fair efficiency gain in households. They can incorporate more or less home production as needed.

Women expect to marry men that make $40k more than the average wage and be over 6 feet tall.

Women also think that their Degree in Psychology from Easy Community College gives them higher status than a Plumber.


True that!

“What makes a man, is it the woman in his arms,
Just 'cause she has big titties?
Or is it the way he fights everyday?
No, it's prob'ly the titties.”

-from “Now You’re a Man”, the theme song from “Orgasmo”

Played any good games lately?

Is this internet slang?

I think it's an offer.

Sure, but that can also apply to roommates. Saving rent isn't sufficient reason to get married.

OK, include roommates, I have a live in housekeeper. The specialization of labor is a huge gain, going from one to two, a lesser gain from two to three. She runs to the store, handles security. I am free to do yard work, which is a current passion, or build RC planes from dollar tree foam, another passion.

College kids are a bit different, they are conformed by the school and specialization is hard.

Two living at the cost of one means consumption per capita is cut in half.

Household production and consumption do not count for economists complaining men aren't working. Ie, a man doing the household production is the bad unemployed man.

But why does anyone think more than one person per household living at the cost of one depends on marriage?

Half a century ago, multiple people living together was still very common without marriage, whether multiple generations, or roomers/boarders. It was the rise of individualism, independence, the reduced households to marriage with children as the favored, sometimes only legal household. I find it odd that conservatives increasingly writing the laws blame liberals for the results of their laws. Ie, zoning ordinances requiring only one married with, or without, children, couple in a housing unit. I guess five unrelated people living for the cost of one seems like communism to be eradicated.

Are we really to believe that there is some huge increase in male unemployment caused by the fact that there is less marriage?

Let me give you a more logical reason for this paper: The author is has biases about these two issues and has a desire to make them statistically significant. In fact that simple fact is responsible for most published works of this type.

I think you are forgetting that men have a primal desire to get it on with women. In adolescent and young men, it might be the primary thing they are after.

In time past, one got a job, to get married, to get it on. Now they don’t have to get a job or get married in order to get it on. Many young men, therefore, go straight to the dessert and skip those loathsome vegetables.

I think that's a pretty good thesis. There's really not much incentive for marriage beyond children, and increasing numbers of young people are opting out of parenthood. I think also more people are realizing that the notion of a "career" is oversold. Most people don't have careers, they have jobs, so just work enough to support your free time.

Married people still have much more sex, but getting a non-career job doesn't increase your chances of getting married to the extent it once did.

Conventional wisdom can evolve. In the 1950s everyone said that women have a primal desire to have children.

For increasing numbers of young men and women today, sex is not a priority. They have other recreational options.

I think the women desire children thing (admittedly this is still true for both men and women) is Victorian speak for women have a primal desire to get in on as well. But in time past, the risks were to high for women. The chance of pregnancy is like 10%+ in any given month without contraception. Sooner or later the woman would get pregnant and in those days they needed a male to provide (perhaps the child rearing was more costly). Then came the birth control pill. Now women could get it on with any old guy, regardless of whether or not they could be good providers. Furthermore, while still difficult, women can provide for themselves and their children (not as well) by themselves (still bad for the children to not have a present father tho). Hence, women don’t need the legal and ethic bonds of marriage to ensure the support of their male sexual partners. Hence marriage declines and young men care less about employment.

Dogs are stand-ins for children. What does a frequency table of 'owns dog(s)' look like for single people under 35 by sex? Who has the stronger desire for children?

I don’t know. Interesting question though. Lots of old people have dogs tho with no desire for children. There are many reasons people have dogs besides having someone to take care of (stand in for children). Still interesting question. I’d guess it’s about even between women and men tho.

Like herding sheep?

I see more young people with pet dogs than children in two of the three cities where I spend time. (In the third, there are more children, but getting in requires buying a house that costs a million dollars or more so your children can attend "public schools.")

Dogs are a bit of work, but they are almost always happy to see their owners (parents.)

OTOH, how much will your pet contribute to Social Security and Medicare when you need them?

"OTOH, how much will your pet contribute to Social Security and Medicare when you need them?"

Or drive you to your doctors appointment? Or to the store? Visit on holidays? Etc? There's a lot of back loaded value in children and a huge front loaded cost.

If you're a long term thinker, then not having children is a tough call. If you are short term oriented and don't want to become caregivers to messy children and also not miss all the parties, gaming, and extra money in your 20's-30's then it's not a tough call.

Perhaps the issue today is that our society is losing its ability to bring attention to that primal desire before it's too late. Hence the increasing number of thirty-something dog moms lamenting the lack of marriage-material men. If I didn't know better I'd say this was all part of the plan.

IDK... the desire still seems to be there, it’s just that humans have used technology to almost completely sever the link between sex and procreation that existed for millions or billions of years.

That severance has lead to a cheapening of sexuality and the intense commitment it’s unity made present in marriage. The family, men, women and children suffer for it.

But it's perhaps not as pessimistic as you say everyone suffers for it, but we all grow up in the world we know and can hardly compare how we would feel in a different one. Are men, women, and children on balance suffering more than men, women, and children were before the Pill? Hard to say that's the case.

Good point. Certainly seems to be the case that men are getting lazy because of it tho. But fair point.

The laziness in men appears in the incel, MGTOW, MRA, etc. communities. There are plenty of men out there who could maintain perfectly healthy relationships and marriages with a little self-improvement, and yet they choose instead to indulge themselves and call it a protest. But then slacktivism is far from a gendered issue these days.

What's wrong with "slacktivism?" It's just one life option among others. If you don't want to work hard just to spend your money on maintaining a bourgeois lifestyle and pay the salaries of your kids' college professors (who hate you), why should you?

That's just one example. There are many others. Hard work in a social democracy just means you're the subsidizor for the subsidizees.

Well, the most obvious problem is that the slacktivist, by definition, is dissatisfied with the circumstances of his life. Even the MGTOW crowd wouldn't feel the need to proselytize if they were doing what they claim. Where functional adults understand they need to take action to solve their problems many young men are displaying a complete lack of agency in response to theirs.

Of course it's not a coincidence that incels/MGTOW/MRAs are coming out of the woodwork at about the same time the first offspring of the single mother epidemic are reaching adulthood. When you have the double whammy of having mom dote over you for your whole childhood, combined with the absence of a father figure who has successfully navigated the marriage game, it's not surprising that these guys are, if we can speak plainly, trying (and failing) to implement women's solutions to men's problems.

It's important, though, to understand the distinction between a cause and a crutch. Arrested development isn't an excuse to write off your life, much less that of an entire generation. Again, most of these guys would vastly improve their romantic prospects, and their life in general, if they put in even a modicum of effort. But they don't because it's easier to do nothing and complain.

Are MGTOW/MRAs real things? If so, what are they?

The average women woman wants to have ~2.6 children. The average woman, with current trends and data on those who have completed childbearing will only hit ~1.8 children in the US.

If you dig deeper into family sizes the only way the math works out is if there are large percentages of women who want two or more children who have one or fewer. It's actually pretty hard to square the numbers without having a bunch of women who want one or more kids who have none.

I would submit that far more than letting women realize their childbearing desires, modern society has made it harder for them do so with acceptable trade-offs. This also jives with the number of women who would prefer to stay at home or work part time but feel they must work full time to support their families. This in turn also fits with the fact that far more Americans live in metropolitan cores than desire to live there while far fewer live in rural areas than desire to live there.

I can paint a very consistent picture that on many axes women would prefer a different life that is not compatible with current society. It is almost like "having it all" is only possible for the privileged and they have destroyed the ability of everyone else to get more than one or two priorities in life.

Revealed preferences. Women say they want 2.6 kids on average in a world without any trade offs.

Trusting women to make their own decisions seems like the easy solution. Even if on one aspect they don’t get everything they want. Women are adults they can make cost benefit calculations.

Revealed preferences are only valid when comparing in the current situation. It is fallacious to use them across time or to make them absolute.

Sure, people want to have decent jobs, not having to worry too much about their elderly years, and such ... but do you seriously hold that we want a society where people must forego three children to achieve that?

Frankly I would like to trust woman. After all the majority of them back abortion bans after the first trimester. They also back things like increased child tax credits, neighborhood development limitations, and of course, famously voted overwhelmingly for prohibition.

"Trusting women to make their own decisions seems like the easy solution."

Let them eat cake! They have revealed their preference not to eat and to be thin!

"the privileged and they have destroyed the ability of everyone else to get more than one or two priorities in life."

What does this mean? Haven't the privileged always been able to achieve more than the rest? What have they destroyed?

Well for a start it was not a bunch of blue collar folks who sued the ability of employers to offer differential treatment to parents supporting a whole family compared to singletons.

For another, it was the top end of the income ladder that opted to price up the desireable real estate on a two income model.

And of course there is the whole shtick of the insanely wealthy locating all the new corporations in high price/high prestige locales allegedly to attract elite level talent. Almost as though pricing out single earner families or even women who leave the labor force for 6 or 8 years was terrible.

And of course there are all the other fun things like divorce law, marriage law, and all manner of cultural impacts that just so happen to have been trending steadily toward minority opinions ... which just so happen to only work for the elite.

Is there a mustached villain stealing money from the majority of women? No. That would be far better. Instead there are the elites who pursue cultural, social, and political habits that just so happen to immiserate people around the things people say, and pretty much most experts agree, matter most.

But it's okay. They are poor. And weak willed. They just choose things that their wealth and intelligence cannot support. Eff em.

There has never been a time when the elites changed their behavior just to avoid immiserating the poor. The elites live their lives without really worrying about that stuff. And they always have. So not sure what your problem is. People have choices and people need to be responsible for their own choices. There have always been poor people, making poor decisions, and there always will be.

So stop bitching about that and tell us exactly what you would change if you were god-emperor instead of Trump. Would you ban alcohol and all recreational drugs? End no-fault divorce? Make church attendance compulsory? Make marriage compulsory? Price controls on real estate? Massive resdistribution so everyone has the same amount of money? What's your plan?

The elites have often changed their behavior to better the poor. Napoleon III, for instance, drastically overhauled much of the French state to maintain the good graces of the French masses and curtailed numerous privileges of the elite. Similarly, the early 20th century wars had a lot of the elites, like Churchill, David Lloyd George, both Roosevelts, Hoover, and Truman, invest in the common man. Going back earlier the Hussites saw massive change in elite behavior to the betterment of the masses. Knox and the Presbyterians likewise demanded changes in the Scottish nobility that were better for the masses. And of course there was the whole abolition thing where British and Northern elites sacrificed social standing, profits, and capital just to end a barbaric practice that had only positive venal impacts on their lives.

I mean seriously, go look at the habits of the elite in the 18th century versus those of the 1950s. In pretty much every way, the masses have more power and the elites behave less malignantly - less rape, less slavery, less peonage, etc.

My plan is pretty simple, call a spade a spade. In between celebrating malevolent behavior and banning it is this space called persuasion. You want to drink to excess, okay, there is no way current society would make prohibition work so let's just be honest about how changing drinking mores are leading to a rapid increase alcohol use disorder, liver disease, and death. You want to denigrate church membership and tell us how horrible it is that people take bronze age texts as guidebooks for living, well hey free speech is good. But you also should be confronted with the fact that declining religious praxis is associated with (and likely causing) losses of lifespan similar to getting common cancers.

It goes back to the Murphy Brown days. Behavior that only elites can easily sustain, like raising a child as a single woman, is normalized and the actual facts are denigrated.

So yeah, I hang my hat on persuasion as my first goal. There is some tinkering around the edges that might help (e.g. creating an optional form of marriage that is not no-fault perhaps with some mild incentives, raise the bar for what counts as "establishment" of religion, require alcohol to come with advisories like those for cigarettes, giving lighter FHA loan terms to families with children and one income), but this is far less about actual law than about cultural expectations.

We could likely fix much of it within a generation, but laws are meaningless without persuading people. So yes, I do think we need more people in positions of influence to tell the full truth instead of the vapid incantations of rights.

"Call a spade a spade". Pretty words. The poor are malleable children, if we just condescend to them they will all be healthy and happy.

OK we'll get right on that.

Nice virtue signalling.

So much more important to get the snark out than to look at the failures of society and even try to be honest about them.

Nice church ladying. So much more important to decide how everyone should live their lives than to accept individual agency and responsibility.

Individual agency and responsibility is predicated upon full disclosure and truthful discourse.

Oddly, advocating for precisely that is "church ladying".

We get it. You like your vices. The world works for. Those for whom it doesn't made bad choices and lack your force of will. They are poor, uneducated, and stupid; eff em.

Goodness you're a prig.

Ever notice how when there is nothing coherent to say, there are always still insults to sling?

That's your go to move.

" differential treatment to parents supporting a whole family compared to singletons."

People who are more dedicated to their work are compensated accordingly.

"For another, it was the top end of the income ladder that opted to price up the desireable real estate on a two income model."

Yes, those with money bid up the most in-demand things. That is how markets work.

"insanely wealthy locating all the new corporations in high price/high prestige locales allegedly to attract elite level talent"

In Texas, you go to the oil fields, they don't come to you.

1. No dedication is not rewarded. In fact, the more likely you are to jump ship the more you are rewarded. After all parents with families are less likely to take competing offers because they have the additional hurdle of uprooting children from schools. Typically the most dedicated people in the company are the ones who plan to retire there, instead we see patterns were bidding increases for the less committed individuals most willing to jump ship.
2. Almost as those though markets can have externalities that negatively impact others who are not a party to the transaction.
3. New corporations do not go to the oil fields. Amazon HQ2 did not locate where the bulk of DC computing talent lies which is distinctly west of DC proper where massive computing services companies reside (e.g. CACI, ManTech, or ... Amazon in Ashburn). Instead Amazon placed HQ2 as close as possible (given building restrictions) to the centers of power in DC. If Amazon was "going to the oilfields" they would have opted for something like Pittsburgh or Ithica where there is a huge stream of talent that is forced to move cross country after graduation.

Society hasn't made it harder for women to have children; with the possible exception of two-income vs. one-income households (or viewed differently a negative stigma towards stay-at-home moms), the same ingredients are there as for previous generations: find a man, make some babies.

The problem is that society has made it easier for women (and, in another way, men) to aimlessly drift through life. This ranges from the glorification of the Sex and the City lifestyle of cocktails and casual hookups, to promoting individualist careerism, to the various movements based around finding yourself. It takes a strength of will and clarity of purpose to resist these influences that many people, especially many women, simply won't have.

It would not, I think, be conspiratorial to suggest that this trend is engineered by our cultural overlords to eliminate the family as a competing social structure to the media-state complex. This becomes even more obvious when you look at the various government initiatives designed to undermine traditional family structures: gay marriage, liberal divorce law (including child visitation), hookup culture, "open" marriage, welfare programs for single mothers, etc.

The bottom line is that people who are atomized and without the sorts of strong, long-term relationships that might be found between spouses or parents/children are not going to act in the best interests of those relationships and instead accept the state as a surrogate for belonging. It should go without saying that this arrangement is more likely than not going to benefit those in charge of the state to the detriment of the people who suffer from a lack of purpose and meaning.

There used to be a stable path where a woman could find financial stability and the ability to provide for her children such that she could begin reproduction in her early 20s.

Those days are gone. Now a woman cannot rely on marriage, it is highly stigmatized and legally very challenging to get a secure partnership via marriage. Nor can she achieve financial stability in any of the jobs that used to allow a single girl some opportunities.

Instead if you want financial stability, a woman needs to devote pretty much all of her peak fertility years to a career. Age at first child birth is now 26 and rising for women. If she wants three kids, the second most common desired number of children for women, she must start no later than 27.

We have ended up with a society where childbearing is in direct competition with basic financial stability. This was not the case previously. We value so much formal degrees, CV line items, and the rest that it is only a hyper privileged few who can easily meet desired fertility while having security in the "meritocracy" that gives financial stability.

Some of this is just technology. Some of it is policy. Some of it is changing desires. All of it gets rolled through culture.

We have ended up with a society where childbearing is in direct competition with basic financial stability.

I don't think I agree with this. What you're calling "basic financial stability" is probably more accurately called "upper-middle class." It is easier today than at any other time in history to raise children on a shoestring budget. You could argue that health care is more expensive now, and in some places real estate. But absolutely everything else is not just cheaper, it's cheaper by orders of magnitude.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I think one of the main problems is that society, at least in America, has gotten more materialistic, but in very strange ways. We're not more materialistic about status goods, we're more materialistic about having a bunch of crap. For example, every other guy on my neighborhood street has a wood shop in his garage that never gets used -- metal cabinets, power tools, a flat-screen TV on the wall... None of this is aspirational, you can get it at Walmart for a reasonable price. But it's unused crap that everyone thinks they have to have and no one really needs. A houseful of crap like that really piles up. TVs, smart home devices, small appliances, Woot! T-shirts, video game consoles, subscription services, two family cars when only one will often do, abject refusal to ride a bicycle as a form of transportation, so spend the money on gas, and so on.

People are steadily getting up-sold on crap to the point where they have to choose between enjoying their crap and having sex and children. And they choose the crap! They actually choose the crap. Better to play AC/DC covers on $5000 worth of hobby guitars than put $5000 into a college fund.

Society is playing the short game. The long game is better, but how do you convince people that it's worth it to reduce alcohol consumption, read some old philosophy books, have kids and nurture a loving relationship with them, get more exercise, spend less money, invest in boring index funds..? Much easier to sell them on a cruise to, not just Belize, but Belize and Costa Rica and Mexico. More countries for your $2000 means more fun -- doesn't it?


According the BLS consumer survey the median American budgets break down as follows:
16% on housing
14% on transportation
12% on taxes
11% on utilities and other household operational costs
10% on food
9% on Pensions, Social Security, and Insurance
8% on debt payment/savings
6% on health care
4% on entertainment
3% on apparel and services
2% of education
1% on vices

That leave 4% for rounding errors and misc. Where is the bunch of crap?

I would argue that it might be half the food budget, (5%), 2/3rds of the clothes budget (2%), entertainment (4%), and vices (1%). All told cutting all this fat from the budget leaves us with 84% of total still claimed.

As you note, the reality is that all this crap is cheap, and durable. So we do not buy that much of it. $10,000 worth of home furnishings will last even poor folks a decade. Consumption of discretionary durable goods just does not drive that much consumer spending.

So our budgets cannot sustain a 20% decrease in income. What does it take to be in a position to be stable around that? Mostly a college degree, trade certificate, or union membership. Or perhaps 5 years of on-the-job experience in some valued role. Want to get a job at 18, save up a nest egg, and then have kids? Very hard to manage in a manner that doesn't run the risk of layoffs, loss of overtime, or erosion of income to shifts in healthcare or housing.

Exactly what sort of job/career do you have in mind that will not run the risk of a 20% shock to income or expenses with a recession? Or with automation? Or some change in policy that strips your Obamacare subsidies/nukes your individual health insurance plan?

For a non-precious life, i.e. the old bog standard middle class, you really do have to spend the peak fertility years either pursuing a credential, gaining intensive work experience, or similar endeavors to prevent being whacked by minor fluctuations.

We simply have limited slack in the budget these days and very few paths to budgetary stability.

Sure, you're one of the smartest commentators at this blog, bar none, and one of my very favorites. But your response here is weak. Just because an expense gets classified as "housing" doesn't mean there isn't any fat to trim from the housing budget. This is just a descriptive breakdown of what people spend money on, not a measure of how much they ought to have spent on those expenses. Plenty of people are "house poor," "car poor" and so on.

I see Audis parked in the driveways of Section 8 housing. There's one example of fat that could be trimmed, and the aforementioned power tools and metal cabinets probably go into the "housing" part of the budget breakdown, even though it's $5000 nobody needed to spend.

You, and everyone else on this blog, are people with above average literacy, likely above average education, and due to the magic of statistical correlation, are likely much better at things like self-control, future discounting, and broad horizon thinking.

The average person is not. Saying that it is possible for someone to figure out where all the fat lies, cut it, and then make do with a contingent job using savings to tide over when your shifts get cut unexpectedly or you need to apply to some other industry if yours gets tanked ... that is simply something that most Americans will not or cannot do.

After all, a substantial minority of Americans seem to be unable to work out that heroin destroys your ability to enjoy almost anything else in life, and that you will typically habituate so that you cannot even enjoy that.

And this is part of my thesis. When society went from a place that was oriented around families (e.g. consideration for parental status was allowed under law, to the betterment of parents) to a place that was oriented around individuals the mores changed. And most people in life simply follow the ques around them.

And I see this all the time. Getting new cabinets almost always follows friends doing something similar. Yet if you are unmarried with kids, not only can you not afford the cabinets, but you also have less time to figure out which cabinets are cost effective (e.g. finding the discontinued style you like that is much cheaper) and are less able to figure out if they are useful (e.g. if your friends do formal work entertaining they might be claiming it as a business expense and actually need a certain look to earn client respect and trust).

But is it all the less well off's fault that they get suckered into poor decisions by their inability to gauge the utility of expenditures?

Who cares?

Somehow people, who were just as dumb, short sighted, and bad at making decisions in the past, managed to get through life with far less precariousness. They had a lot more social capital to rely upon. Their path to stable jobs, that did not have 20% variance in wages, was simply and quick.

Grant that people make bad decisions and will not take every opportunity in front of them. Okay, what sorts of social trends are good to reinforce knowing that these suboptimal paths will be taken?

Again, I submit if the average woman wants the same stability in her life that her mother and grandmother had, she will need to either spend her most fertile years earning it or she will have to be far better at all the soft skills of life to avoid the numerous pitfalls of the modern society.

I believe in fault tolerant systems. The modern economy is highly fault intolerant. That is not a good thing.

"I think you are forgetting that men have a primal desire to get it on with women. In adolescent and young men, it might be the primary thing they are after."

And young women compete with each other to get it on with men.
Men do not get a job so they can get married, they get a job so they can buy a car and have spending money. Most men actually like to work and would feel lost without a job. Most men work for a few years before they ever even think about marriage. There is probably no link what so ever between men choosing to work and men getting married. This entire idea was clearly though up by women who have no idea why men choose to work.

When the marriage market return on this investment declines, young men’s employment declines as well

So what do these unemployed hombres do for beer and weeds? They must work at least for awhile in order to be eligible for UE benefits. Maybe they all turn to shoplifting and recycling junk metals.

In the real world, where these decisions are made, young women do not have any trouble finding sex partners if they do not set their standards absurdly high. Young men do. So you get the observed results, which is that men compete for women much more than the reverse.

That's because men are by-and-large terrible at sex. Casual hook-ups for men result in guaranteed orgasms. Women bear all the cost of casual sex, and the benefit is usually pitiful.

Casual hookups are selfish and engaged in for selfish reasons. They are not being engaged in to bring unity to the couple or to have children. They are about ones personal pleasure. The fact that women think they men using them as a glory hole care what they get out of it is funny. Surprise... selfish people engaging is selfish acts often act selfishly.

Lol, women know that men don't care about being good at sex, which is why we are pickier. We know you suck in bed, so you need look good or have something else going for you.

Not with one night stands. It’s different when it’s your mate and your care deeply about them, their feelings, their pleasure and happiness, and are open to the creation of new life with a person you are giving your whole self to.

That is what human sexuality is meant for.

"young women do not have any trouble finding sex partners if they do not set their standards absurdly high. Young men do"

Really!!! Did you fail math? For every woman having sex there is a man having sex. The numbers are identical. So explain again how it could be that women have more sex than men.

Did you fail economics? Supply will meet demand, even if one is inelastic.

The women are sleeping with the top 20% of men.
I've met guys that have slept with 100s of women.

The lower 50% of men aren't sleeping with anyone.

Sounds like a depression-era adage. I think most men would probably say their living costs more than double after getting married.

We found about a 20% economy of scale from getting married.
The third kid, which occasioned moving out of the 2BR and buying a minivan, torpedoed those economies.


I was about to say something similar.

If they don't research the obvious, it's harder to back up arguments against a certain crazy ideology that is quite popular now, even among the educated.

Especially among the educated.

I see plenty of people claiming the opposite causation: that loss of economic opportunity led to declining marriage prospects. In fact that one is more intuitive to me than the idea that men are investing less in their careers due to poorer marriage prospects.

So, what do the women do? Just go without because the men are having a hard time finding a good job?

I find it more intuitive that once married, women and men gain wait and dress in sweatpants. That suggests that when the pressure is off, people stop trying to impress. Thus, if a guy decides he won't get married, then why have some super stressful job? What's the point?

Well a handful of men are attractive prospects for the women, and yeah, the rest go without.

And what the paper is saying about the stressful job -- it is the case that *even with the stressful job* the man might not have sufficiently better marriage prospects than without.

I think the effect might be the opposite. The people who have the worst dating prospects are MOST in need of a job so as to enhance their marriagability (and thus datability). The hot guys don't need to have a job to get laid, it's the ugly fat guys that need to have a job. Women of course still want to marry, they don't just sleep around for fun, so they will sometimes preference a fat guy who has a good job over a hot athletic guy whose employment and income prospects are poor. Or they'll screw around in their 20s with hot bartenders and then settle down in their 30s with a tech nerd.

It's alpha/beta, not attractive/ugly.

It's the beta males who can't bed women on their charisma alone who need to be able to show they have a steady income stream via gainful employment.

Of course, the problem now is that, when women grow out of their wild alpha-chasing phase and are "ready to settle down" with a "nice guy", they don't get the golden parachute of said nice guy's paycheck.

You combine this with a lifetime of self-esteem inflation and it becomes apparent why there seems to be a great deal of flop-sweating going on behind the scenes in this generation.

Seems like a somewhat flawed model because it seems to sort of have baked in that women are sort of average or all attractive.

In reality, choosiness and self over-rating increases up the attractiveness spectrum, more for women but also for men.

So you end up with "10" men gaining more margin to obtain "10" women from having a high end job, while "1" women and "1" men pair off or stay outside relationships, and jobs have less importance.

That pushes the incentives accordingly.

Most of the people (many are in this thread) complaining about modern mating and marriage are male 4s and 5s who are mad because the female 8s and 9s won't hook up with them.

It’s men extrapolating their Tinder experience to real life.

Women exclusively use looks and height to discriminate against men on a hookup platform intentionally designed for that?

*surprised Pikachu meme*

Hypergamy suggests the opposite, that there are a number of female 4s through 6s rejecting male 4s through 6s because they are aiming for, and frequently receiving low-investment attention from, male 7s through 9s.

Compounding the issue, there is an image floating around from a study done among I think OKCupid users where men and women were asked to rate a number of users of the opposite sex. The nature of the 1-10 scale suggests that there ought to be a bell curve centered on 5; the chart of female ratings by male users generally reflects this bell curve. The chart of male ratings by female users, on the other hand, skews heavily towards the 2-3 range.

While I'm positive there are some self-important incels out there expecting to make wives of supermodels the indiscriminate nature of men's attraction habits suggests the vast majority would be perfectly fine with mating at or even slightly below their level. The fact that this is not happening to the levels seen in past generations is the product of a culture that has "empowered" women to seek casual sex from a shrinking number of high-status men while simultaneously cheerleading their independence (as careerists and/or single mothers) and denigrating potential husbands. Again, if I didn't know better I'd say this was part of a grander plan.

OKCupid deleted the original article but it's archived at:

TechCrunch summarized it here and reproduced the graphs:

Where you go wrong is in assuming that women determine men's status based on their physical appearance. Men do this for women, hence the 1-10 rating scale, but women in general do not use such a numerical scale to rate men, and if they are forced to, then making them judge men by looks is going to skew downwards , because let's face it, men just generally aren't that physically attractive, and don't try to be. If you look at how women talk about men, they don't rate them 1-10 they talk about different types - the jock, the strong silent type, the funny guy, the sensitive romantic guy. it's all about what "type" you're into and it's much more based on personality than on looks.
I don't 6-7 think women are spending time pursuing alpha-men at all. If anything it's more the reverse. The alpha-male types realize they can easily bowl over a 6 or a 7 because the 6 or 7 female will be surprised and flattered by the attention.
Meanwhile, I don't think 4-6 females are ignoring 4-6 males any more than 4-6 males are ignoring 4-6 females. There are plenty of dateless fat girls out there. What I've seen is more like, there are ton's of fat guys who just won't date fat girls, because being fat is a deal-breaker for men, but is not a deal-breaker for women. So you get all these fat guys who remain single because they are hoping to score a non-fat woman who is into them for their personality, and ignoring the fat girls that are actually available. I mean, this phenomenon is so prevalent that Louis CK actually did an episode highlighting it - The pretty bond fat girl saying that most people looking at them would say they look like a good couple, but he would never even consider her as a marriage partner, even though he himself is a fat guy.

Everyone -- male and female -- in your story has the same thing in common: They spend more time thinking about what kind of person they want to be with than they do actually being with someone.

In my experience, people spark with each other or not, and find a descriptive reason for it later. And breakups work the same way, with people hanging on for months and years in relationships they don't like, waiting for some kind of "valid" excuse to break up.

Reality is more chemically driven than that, and paradoxically also more romantic. To wit, I don't know why TF my wife is the hottest woman I've ever laid eyes on, she just is. I know people would disagree, but I don't care, because their opinion isn't relevant to my sex life. It's all pheromones, circumstances, and love languages to me.

Well said, +5 internet points

The paper says it's both that declining *value* of marriage leads to lower marriage rates and lower male employment, and that declining wages leads to lower marriage rates, declining value of marriage, and lower male employment.

I think a mode that makes more intuitive sense to me... men seek employment to obtain a wife because they want to get it on.

As it became increasingly easier for men to get it on without having to get married, they skipped the whole get a job and get married thing - eating their vegetables - and just go straight to the desert.

Right, but if you're mediocre looking it's still easier to get laid if you have a good job. If for no other reason than that having a good job means you have money to splurge on showing the girl you're interested in a good time (i.e. tickets for shows, weekend getaways, boat rentals, etc.)

I think that’s right. You prolly need to afford a date (Netflix and chill is only like 10 bucks a month tho) but not a home and a family’s groceries. Some pretty big movements are evident at the margin tho.

Most of the dynamics within population probably aren't driven by spending (too little disposable income to date is a fairly marginal issue), but to extent they are, consider tradeoff between more leisure time and more money.

In this tradeoff, not sure +money, -leisure is positive for romance.

too little disposable income to date is a fairly marginal issue

Not sure if true. You at least need to be able to afford booze. But more importantly, you aren't going to be able to date higher-status women if you can't afford them. Like, even if the woman doesn't want kids, she might be doing that because she aspires to be a world traveller. If all you can afford is booze, you're not going to land a partner who wants to go scuba diving in Belize.

Sure, but such women do not tend to be particularly physically attractive. Often women with such aspirations are less attractive than average.

It's easier to predict a head injury when you witness a hammer strike. But not as easy to determine a hammer strike when you witness a head injury.

One point we must keep in mind is that, since the 70s, American workers' living standards have been declined enormously as American workers were being replaced by Japanese and Chinese workers. Meanwhile the rich got richer and Wall Street control over economy and politics bacame supreme. Representative Gabbard feels the pain of American workers and has vouched to break big banks up, rise tax on the rich, protect American jobs and invest in education and infrastructure, the twin engines of growth, progress and employment.

Make America Gabbard again.

There is to much "hating on the rich class", and too little honest discussion about government allowing itself to be captured.

How long could we have sustained the trade deficit without government borrowing? We would soon run out of dollars, which would automatically have made foreign goods more expensive, and American blue collar manufacturing workers more competitive.

Also, the proper response to China's blatant violation of WTO rules is not tariffs and "hard negotiations". The proper response is to give them the Cuba treatment until they comply. This would be painful for us, but more painful for PRC.

That is the point. It is a time for action. To bring America back to the 70s living standards, we need to defeat the twin dragons of globalism and Wall Street.

Gabbard: In your heart, you know she is right.

One point we must keep in mind is that, since the 70s, American workers' living standards have been declined enormously

Right. This is why the average American home is so much smaller and has so many fewer labor-saving appliances. It's why average workers can no longer enjoy the amazing Atari video games on their 25" tube TVs. It's why their cars are so much less safe, efficient, and reliable. It's why they eat out and fly on trips so much less often. It's why they can no longer dream of shopping for the wonderful polyester leisure suits that used to be available at their local Sears store. I tell you, things have gotten so bad, you can't even buy an 8-track player or Betamax VCR -- let alone a full-sized camcorder that rests so comfortably on the shoulder. You can't buy Instamatic camera for those Kodak moments (and if you do still have one around, you probably can't even get the flash-cubes!)

This is fun -- I could probably come up with more examples for another hour or two.

You're trying to talk sense to Thiago, craziest dude on the 'net (and that's saying something)

Besides, Americans pay more for healthcare and education than before. Dual income couples are much more common than it used to be. All things considered, Americans work more and earn less.

And yet Americans are also more likely to have post-secondary degrees than in the 70s and enjoy advanced drugs and treatments (minimally invasive surgery anyone) that were unavailable then.

The idea that life in American has gotten worse (or even no better) since the 70s is so preposterous, so contrary to common experience that it's something only an intellectual could believe (especially one too young to remember the 1970s -- one who has never driven a 70s car, worn 70s clothes, eaten 70s food or drunk 70s beer). I'm just old enough to remember it and, man, you couldn't make me go back there.

I am pretty sure there are much better TV sets and videogames (not made in America) nowadays, but I am talking about real things. Americans are struggling. Their familes are heavily indebted, and our government is heading to collapse. Wall Street and the Chinese have been bleeding us dry. Representative Gabbard will bring us back to the 1970s, when Americans had opportunities.

You're mainly focusing on product quality, so this is rather a "Is there a great stagnation?" question, rather than living standards as indexed by income. Certainly 1970-2020 is rather stagnant compared to 1920-1970, but it's not like nothing has been innovated.

Not an invalid approach to the question, though rather orthogonal to many others. One would suspect that the same people who make this argument would not be so willing to take declining relative income due to taxation and declining access to the largest houses but increasing access to high quality consumer non-durables as evidence that things were on the up and up for the rich and ambitious!

That said, while I don't remember the '70s, and live in the UK I do remember 1990 here, and I can't say that food quality, housing quality, clothing quality seem to have palpably increased, and seem much the same, often somewhat more expensive in real terms. Young people seem to have less disposable income to use to go out and travel. So if not a 50 year stagnation, in most aspects of life a 30 year one.

"You're mainly focusing on product quality"

But product quality is a big deal, and it's not confined to 'gadgets' -- it applies across the board from clothing to automobiles to food to sporting goods. The median home size has increased by 1000 sq ft since 1973 and the floor space per person has doubled. But there are obvious gains in services, too. Americans fly for leisure travel and dine out much more. And they have much greater (and cheaper) entertainment options. They're also much less likely to work as teens and retire earlier, shortening their time in the labor force at both ends.

Meanwhile, the consumption gap between rich and poor has closed significantly. What items would you now expect to find in a house owned by a top quintile family vs a middle quintile family? Original artwork, perhaps, but beyond that, what exactly?

Product quality does matter and hence it's not a bad approach ("Not an invalid approach to the question")! Regarding consumption inequalities, personal cinema rooms, pools, Peloton, espresso machines and pod coffee machines, sous-vide equipment, Big Green Egg smokers, high end hi-fi equipment, Apple products, lots of expensive furniture. The last 50 years may be in a relatively stagnant era compared to 1920-1970, but there are clearly things for them to spend their money on.

Life is much better for the poor as well in terms of access to information, educational opportunities, etc.

When I was a kid, one of the measures of middle class as opposed to being poor was that middle class families had encyclopedia sets. That gave their kids a big educational boost, and gave the middle class access to wide-ranging knowledge of the world. A full Brittanica set back then was worth as much as a good used car. Poor people simply had to do without.

As a poor family, we didn't have an encyclopedia. Or a car. So it was a bus ride to the library whenever I needed to find something out.

Also, the poor in 1970 were utterly disconnected from the upper classes. They did not share the same entertainment, and if you didn't live in a major city you had no chance to see high art. Entertainment for the masses came down to three television networks producing pablum, sports, and whatever fun stuff you could come up with on your own. Holidays were 'staycations', or a visit to relatives, or for those who had a reliable enough car, a road trip to a camping destination.

The barrier between rich and poor made poor lives harder, but it probably kept resentment of the rich lower because you just weren't exposed to them much.

Now, everyone has access to orders of magnitude more information than they used to. The internet has been a great equalizer of activity and access to knowledge. But because it also puts us in close proximity to wealth and power, it also increases resentment and awareness of class differences. And to some extent it has ripped the mask off the 'elite', exposing them as being just a prone to stupidity and venality as anyone else, making people wonder about the fairness of the gap in wealth between them.

Outstanding comment, +10 internet points

"Regarding consumption inequalities, personal cinema rooms, pools, Peloton, espresso machines and pod coffee machines, sous-vide equipment, Big Green Egg smokers, high end hi-fi equipment, Apple products, lots of expensive furniture. The last 50 years may be in a relatively stagnant era compared to 1920-1970, but there are clearly things for them to spend their money on."

Personal cinema rooms!? Like a special room for the 50-70" flat-screen hooked to cable and Netflix that everybody has? And yes, there are always gold-plated versions of things, but none of what you listed are out of reach of lower-income people in terms of *function*. Green Egg smokers are trendy and pricey but don't do anything that much less expensive models do (if look for 'how to smoke ribs' videos on youtube, you're going to fund a bunch of country dudes, NOT rich guys). Plenty of lower-income people have iphones. Immersion circulators for sous vide can be had on Amazon for under $75 (or even under $50). You're really grasping to any impactful material goods that the wealthy have and the working class does not.

It's nothing like the past when the wealthy had color TVs, air-conditioning, washers and dryers, digital cameras, personal computers, microwaves, VCRs, mobile phones, dishwashers, etc many years or decades before the poor and middle-class did. (Or going back even further, there were decades-long periods from the time that the rich first had electric lights and indoor plumbing and the time that the lower-classes caught up. More than 50 years, really. The gap between the daily life of the wealthy and working class is tiny now compared to the past.

What is it about the US that makes US men so different from the 90-95% of men in the rest of the world?

My view is those men who think men marrying women, and forcing women to put up with the man regardless, is virtue, object to paying men to work, being constantly focused on cutting costs, which are always labor costs. However they place a priority on profits requiring higher consumption driving demand greater than production, and they see married with children as driving growth in debt to pay their profits.

Given profit is the money not paid to workers, and infinite debt is not possible, the high priority on profit since the 70s means increasing numbers of men can not afford to support a women and kids, so women are forced to take on that cost. Why should a woman forced to pay the costs of family need a man who only increases the burden?

Profit cuts consumption unless offset by ever increasing debt. Not everyone is allowed forever increasing debt, and others refuse to take on the debt trap to consume.

Many men "hussle" to pay for limited consumption without a formal job. They are the modern hunter-gatherers and farmers living off the land.

A natural state of nature.

Unlike the men taking jobs to consume marriage with children construct of conservatives.

"Given profit is the money not paid to workers ..."

Wow. The Surplus Value Theory of Labor. I don't think I've seen that as an over-arching Theory of All since high school.

But, really, how hard is it to see that many of the most profitable businesses on this planet also tend to pay unusually high salaries? Or that a business offering a crappy product or service in a competitive marketplace is not going to prosper, no matter how low it manages to push its pay scale?

Are men in America really that different? Japan is having even larger problems along these lines. The problem of large numbers of unmarried young men is serious in the Middle East and elsewhere.

We can make fun of them as losers or 'incels', or claim that the problem is that me are a bunch of backwards troglodytes, but it won't make the problem go away. A society in which young men do not get educated or married is unstable.

And this status gap is worse for men than women, because women are far less likely to marry a man who is 'beneath' them in education, wealth, or career status. A male doctor is far more likely to be willing to marry a female nurse than a female doctor would be to marry a male nurse.

The findings (as summarized) are a little confusing (to me). Does the declining employment status of males cause the declining marriage rate of males or does the declining marriage rate of males cause the declining employment status of males? I wouldn't want to marry one of the lugs who spend their time on social media raging about blacks and immigrants. On the other hand, if the lugs had a good job, would they spend their time raging about blacks and immigrants.

Think videogames and pot, not politics.


A reduction in the value of marriage causes fewer marriages, worse marriages (i.e. more egalitarian wealth allocation between man and wife), and lower labor force participation.

A reduction in the wages for men *also* causes fewer and worse marriages, and lower labor force participation.

On top of that, part of the lower labor force participation in response to wage shocks is caused by the induced shock in the marriage market.

Obviously a defective study.

Examined only heterosexual marriages and not gay marriages. Opportunity for gay marriage increased household formation, and spurred the wedding and real estate markets.

Do increasing co-habitation rates undermine the study: why get married (or seek marriage) if you can co-habitate: " among those ages 18-24, cohabitation is now more prevalent than living with a spouse: 9 percent live with an unmarried partner in 2018, compared to 7 percent who live with a spouse. In 2018, 15 percent of young adults ages 25-34 live with an unmarried partner, up from 12 percent 10 years ago"

The percentage of homosexual marriages vs total marriage between 1965 and 2019 rounds to zero.

Why would you use the timeframe 1965 to 2019 instead of 2014 to 2019?

Other than to cook the books to get the result you want.

Read the very first sentence of the abstract of the article at the handy link Tyler provided.

Thanks for the info Mulp. You are correct about the date observation in response to Rat comment:

Percentage married to same-sex spouse up from 7.9% two years ago
Sharp decline in same-sex domestic partnerships
LGBT men more likely to be married than LGBT women"

Here is the link:

FWIW, the percentage of married couples that are same sex is less than 0.5%

Frankly, I thought the co-habitation part of my comment was the most interesting. I guess not. People are fixated on gays, as that was really more of a joke.

Cohabitation has been a way to avoid the cost of separation, but the legal environment has changed. About a decade ago the Canadian government started considering a couple who had been together for a couple years as equivalent to married. It would be interesting to see the numbers across that change.

"male withdrawal from the labor force .... demand-driven improvements in women’s employment opportunities."

Is this change driven by marriage Or is it just a larger labor pool? If you drastically increase the number of women working then you have a much larger and talented labor pool. Perhaps the marginal male labor line regressed upward towards the middle?

1) Value of marriage decreases -> men work less

2) Wages decrease -> men work less -> marriage prospects decrease -> men work less

The value of marriage decreases by making it easier to dissolve a marriage and by decreasing the relative value of male labor relative to female labor. In the paper they view the 'quality' of the marriage in terms of the proportion of household income the male is allowed(?) to control.

For those young single guys out there, marrying a woman better than you is pretty sweet. Sure you gotta work a little harder at home but it does have its benefits.

I’m thankful everyday that my wife has low standards. It allows me to spend so much time with you fine people.

Slappy as a young man of middling talents at best who is trying to get back into the dating scene, I am inspired to hear your optimistic take on dating up.

The question is whether women have realistic standards, particularly in this age of "empowerment".

Hey, there's always Xanax and hook ups to calm their minds. It's a great new world.

And the choice hinges on the ability to leave the marriage and still be provided for, which is to say, without equality, and THAT makes the whole thing a different calculation - Quelle Suprise! See what I did there?

I'm positive not many men approve of their wives bailing on them and taking half their stuff, alimony and child support included; as per usual, your insight is not all that insightful.

Setting that aside, you're also assuming that a woman's "choice" re: divorce is a rational sacrifice made after all other options for saving the marriage are exhausted. The incentives present today instead suggest it's a bailout mechanism to allow women to maintain financial stability while following their whims through various personal crises, to the encouragement of both other women and society as a whole. Again, if I didn't know better I'd say this was all part of a grander plan.

Fruits of the welfare state and feminization of males. The welfare state creates a matriarchy that destroys male role models.

You want a safe space?

And if you think about it, the young men who are withdrawing from the labour force are likely to have earned wages that are lower than average. Thus the average wages of employed men will have been increased. The result being that the wage gap between employed men and employed women will have worsened (or at least not shrunk as fast as otherwise expected).

Being an econo-geek I once built a simple little model in excel (hey kids! why don't you try this at home!). I created a "profession" with 3 levels: Junior, Intermediate, and Senior (earning $25k, $50k, and $75k respectively). At the start t=0 all positions are filled by men. At t+1 a woman joins the Junior level, at t+2 a woman joins the Intermediate level, and at t+3 a woman joins the Senior level. As expected the average male wage is always higher than the average female wage even though at each level the wages are the same for both men and women. Also as expected the wage gap shrunk as the number of men and women in the profession approached equality. But, since I am only so-so at math, I hadn't predicted that as the number of women in the profession approached 100% the wage gap would start to get worse! In fact, gap in average wages is at its very worst when there is only 1 male remaining in the profession (as a Senior) and all the other positions are held by women.

Which basically means that The Guardian newspaper will have lots to complain about for the next 100 years.


Eventually the senior male will die though, and there will be nobody to promote except women.

I should note that discussion about men, marriage, and incentives should really discuss 1) alimony and 2) increasing social acceptance of premarital sex.

Unilateral divorce decreased the value of marriage for men not because you can now easily divorce, but because if you divorce, she still gets half your stuff and half your income.

If you could divorce and not lose half your stuff and income, then unilateral divorce would have significantly increased, not decreased, the net value to men.

Furthermore, the option of a unilateral divorce with alimony changes the relative negotiating positions of the spouses in everyday interaction, further reducing the value of marriage for men.

Only about 1 in 10 divorces involve alimony.

But what is the overall net transfer of wealth?

Do you have a good source on that? It doesn't match my observations at all and I'd like to reconcile my observations with data (e.g. does it vary by state? does it change much if you exclude short marriages? are my observations just randomly different than the population distribution).

A quick google search came up with sources making similar claims that don't give details or their sources.

Right. I got it from some journal for divorce lawyers.

I'm not going to look it up but from memory the figure was extrapolated from two other numbers. 4.4 million men (people?) are paying child support and 350 thousand women (people?) are collecting alimony so...10%.

My anecdotes are different than most. 1) A female colleague was ordered to pay spousal maintenance to her ex husband. 2) My sister didn't get alimony (spousal maintenance) in her divorce, but she was awarded some minor amount of child support.

What percentage have the assets divided in half? If there are kids there is child support.

After being deplatformed, F. Roger Devlin has put on a clever disguise and gone into economics.

Amusing, but if there was ever a thing that could not be flattened to a median, it is "marriage strategy."

Thousands of life paths, and a lot not that well thought out.

Still, I might accept the very general rule that affluence and convenience foods reduce the need for marriage.

When dinner doesn't need 4 hours labor, that changes the equation for prospective wife as well as husband.

A survey of households around 1900 stated that women spent 44 hours per week preparing meals and cleaning. That is a full week of work with childcare added on top.

In 2020?

Marry if you value family, and to someone with equal commitment.

This comment is a meaningless string of words. In your stated opinion the plummeting of marriage and family formation is due to TV microwave dinners and the invention of the washing machine.

No, that’s factually incorrect. It’s the introduction of the pill allowing no risk sex for women, unlimited abortion up to third trimester, and no fault divorce with alimony and split assets regardless of infidelity or cause.

I applaud it because it’s a result of increasing autonomy of women and an increase in freedom. But let’s call a spade a spade. We can stand on our principles.

Why have so many young men withdrawn from the U.S. labor force since 1965?

1. The composition of the labor force has hardly changed since 1995.

2. Of men between their 25th and 55th birthday (and residing outside institutions), 86% are currently employed; about 3% are suffering interstitial unemployment; about 3% are collecting Social Security Disability benefits; about 2% are collecting Supplemental Security Income w/o working. So, you're asking about the residual 6%.

It used to be 95%. So you’re still stuck explaining the decline from 95% to 86%.

The figure "86%" refers to people (outside of institutional confinement) who are employed. I believe you're quoting the labor force participation rate. (The unemployment rate in 1965 averaged about 4.5%, so the share of men between those two birthdays who were then employed was almost certainly not 95%). Today's labor force participation rate in that age segment is 89%. I suspect most of the difference is accounted for by the enhanced availability of disability benefits, but who knows? The disability census in those age segments is abnormally populated with men over 45, not young men.

The 82nd comment finally mentions porn.

what i see here is more proof that we are just big brained chimpanzees seeking alpha status in the troop

Let's be careful not to confuse means with ends.

For many men, marriage was also important as a means to a *ahem* deeper end.

To put not too fine a point on it, men don't need to get married to get laid "for free" anymore.

And if "friends with benefits" or one night stands care much less about how much you earn, then your "career" means much less in terms of getting yours wet.

Economists should google Whitesides how to write a paper. Your format is jarring from a physical science background.

Maybe the satisfactions of marriage and family life are not being modeled so much for young people today.

I have a young friend -- late 20s, raised in the upper middle class -- whose entire social life in recent years has been attending the nuptials of school colleagues, K-12 through college.

What's going on, s/he asked recently. Why are all my friends marrying so young?

Maybe they liked their childhoods and that has made them eager to start their own families, I answered.

Is that so crazy?

Most of the grand theorizing here is a crock. Women are just people, just like men, who want to live their lives as best they can. Not monolithic gender representatives playing games. Sure there's a few out there like that, mostly on TV shows. But most people live their lives.

Fertility drops everywhere when a society becomes affluent. It's not a grand conspiracy of Sex and The City producers and evil elites poisoning beta males precious bodily fluids.

Enjoy the real world, this place ain't that.

Well, what can I say?

Now that women have other ways of supporting themselves outside marriage than becoming a prostitute or a nun, men will have to find other ways to make themselves attractive on the "marriage" market, because money alone doesn't cut it any more.

If some men can't or won't do that, that's their right, but it says far more about their preferences (not to say character) than women's.

A third of the workforce was female in 1957.

That aside, women still expect their husbands to be providers, and judge prospects on that basis.

Yes, rising opportunities for women create a wealth effect on marriage. As women become richer, the monetary reservation price of their marital commitment rises. Fewer men can, or will, afford that price. When incomes are equal, there are less gains from trade.

Search "The Misandry Bubble". Reactionaries Roger Devlin and Roissy blame reduced marriage on women's preferences and opportunities. Basically, economically empowered women prefer remaining single to marrying losers. Devlin and Roissy were concerned about reduced family formation and negative social effects of bastards. They were not concerned about women's welfare.

Getting married is at once the most personal decision but also an externality. 'Culture' is really good at forcing people to what society needs them to do.

You can look at culture (and tradition) as:

1) as Nash solution, emulating (or arbitraging away) what has worked in the past given a populations typical situation and circumstances. To give a business example, academics will abstract the good of Steve Jobs marketing skill and Jeff Bezos organizational discipline from their other quirks and it will become part of standard curriculum.

2) forcing people to make the best short term decisions with their long term future in mind. This is where you should live, work, marry to ensure the best outcomes 40 years from now. Other people have walked your path, and this is what you need to emulate the millionaire that lived to see 10 grandchildren.

3) forcing people to do what is in the best interest of society. Ultimately, if people don't do what is in the best interest of society, it declines, goes broke, or is invaded.

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