Decline in Marriages Blamed On Shortage of 'Economically-Attractive' Men

Love and marriage has been on the decline in America over the last decade and one study from Cornell University may have found one of the reasons why.

According to the study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, this week, a shortage of 'economically-attractive' men could be to blame for the recent decline in marriage rates. According to data from the U.S. Census, in the 1950s, nearly 70 percent of eligible men and women were married, as compared to around 50 percent in 2018. Additionally, over the last sixty years, there's been an increase of nearly 10 percent in those people who report never getting married.

The reasons for this major demographic shift are numerous with many people delaying marriage, or a cultural shift in the perception of unmarried couples who live together, but researchers say, there's also an economic reason.

"Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men - with a stable job and good income - make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs," said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, PhD, of Cornell University.

Unlike previous studies which looked into gender ratio discrepancies, researchers took an economic look at marriage and the potential spouses that are out there. The authors of the study say there's a major mismatch between what single men in the United States have to offer and what single women are willing to accept - that is to say, women aren't getting married because all the good ones are taken.

Researchers used data collected by the American Community Survey on recent marriages between 2007 and 2012 and 2013 and 2017 and focused on specific socioeconomic characteristics that make a couple a good match for one another. Researchers used the data to create fake spouses and compared the socioeconomic characteristics to the actual rates of unmarried men to track the differences.

"This study reveals large deficits in the supply of potential male spouses. One implication is that the unmarried may remain unmarried or marry less well‐suited partners," the study said.

The fake, potential husbands had an income that was 55 percent higher than what single men in the U.S. actually earn. The hypothetical husbands were also 26 percent more likely to be employed, and 19 percent more likely to have a college degree. In other words, expectations are not meeting reality when it comes to dating.

Researchers also found that older women have an even smaller dating pool of economically-attractive men than younger women, who have a slightly easier time finding an acceptable partner. Well-educated women also have a shortage of economically desirable men as opposed to less-educated women.

"Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction," said Lichter. "Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women's education levels on average now exceed their male suitors."