In my previous post, How Many (White) Men Are Getting Married I noted that there was a definite trend for White Men, between ages 35-40, to be unmarried. Using the GSS Data, the increase was from 5% in 1972 to 25% in 2004. A marked increase. Recent, a couple of articles by married women have shed light on the state of marriage by people who are, in fact, married, and are the Yuppie, White upper income class of people.
The infamous, Sandra Tsing Loh article in the Atlantic, extolling the virtues of divorce and a new post-marriage order where,
…let them have some sort of French arrangement where they have two men, the postfeminist model dad building shelves, cooking bouillabaise, and ignoring them in the home, and the occasional fun-loving boyfriend the kids never see.
Tellingly, the article derides Dads who help around the house and kitchen as “kitchen bitches” and finds both un-manly and un-romantic. Another woman writes that her marriage is a prison and she needs to bust out, because her beta male husband is not exciting, though a good father and husband. Comments about Loh’s article can be found both here and here. Ross Douhat in the New York Times makes some silly observations and stupid ones on the matter (that the Upper classes are in fact stable, and with few incidences of divorce, and that cross-class marriages should take place, respectively).
But what is the real picture of marriage today, in America, among Whites? Increasingly, it looks as if marriage was for Upper Class people only, and no longer something that characterizes lower and middle class Whites.
Sandra Tsing Loh’s article is not new. Barbara Ehrenreich, of “Nickel and Dimed” wrote a December, 1999 Essay on the future of the family, sadly no longer online, in Time Magazine, in which she advocated a “fluid and ever-changing arrangement” for family care in which “the community” would care for children while women pursued passionate, intense, but short-lasting affairs. More recently, she’s written here that:
Which brings us to the third big scenario. This is the diversity option, arising from the realization that the one-size-fits-all model of marriage may have been one of the biggest sources of tension between the sexes all along–based as it is on the wildly unrealistic expectation that a single spouse can meet one’s needs for a lover, friend, co-parent, financial partner, reliably, 24-7. Instead there will be renewable marriages, which get re-evaluated every five to seven years, after which they can be revised, recelebrated or dissolved with no, or at least fewer, hard feelings. There will be unions between people who don’t live together full-time but do want to share a home base. And of course there will always be plenty of people who live together but don’t want to make a big deal out of it. Already, thanks to the gay-rights movement, more than 600 corporations and other employers offer domestic-partner benefits, a 60-fold increase since 1990.
Standard stuff from a feminist who thinks Muslim misogyny is based on fears of globalization.
Betty Friedan, who wrote of marriage as a prison, in “The Feminine Mystique” set the tone, years earlier of course. It is striking, however, that all of these women belong to a class. Fairly rich, ranging from mansions on the Hudson (Friedan never did housework, she had maids and servants) to various maids and nannies, but not rich enough to prevent divorce or longing for divorce.
The film The Nanny Diaries has a scene in which the prospective nanny, played by Scarlett Johansson, has lunch with her prospective employer (played by Laura Linney). There is an uncomfortable moment when an old friend of the Linney character stops by the table and laments her downward mobility after the divorce. Near the end of the film, the Linney character divorces her husband also, and loses the ability to live the high-life with mansions, summer homes at Martha’s Vineyard, and other luxury amenities provided by her master of the universe, Wall Street titan husband. In reality of course, most married couples with that level of wealth try to stay together. The stakes, particularly for the children, are tremendous. There is a lot more ability to rise high on a net worth of $20 million, than there is with only perhaps $8 million an ex-spouse, after lawyer fees. Serious money creates serious behavior, though perhaps the super-rich divorce at the rate of those on the lower end of the financial spectrum.
It’s striking that the women complaining about their sexless, “beta male” husbands (Loh, others) and the need to “re-invent” marriage as a formless, shapeless mess in which kids and husbands come last after a woman’s need for passion and excitement, all come from a certain class. One able to afford nannies and maids and carpenters, making “kitchen bitches” superfluous, and speaking to the need to indulge “passion” while not at the level of wealth in which divorce means no more summering at the Hamptons in a private mansion. At least one of the women in Loh’s article is described as making $120,000 a year, in addition to her husband’s income (which should push their dual-incomes to around $200,000 or more a year). Given their social network, it’s reasonable to assume the same for Loh and her husband (she an NPR commentator, and Atlantic writer, he a guitarist for Bette Midler) and the rest of her friends.
These women have enough money to hire their own nannies, their own carpenters, their own part-time cooks, and thus don’t need or want their husbands helping around the house. It’s not any accident that the women describe it as unmanly, as does the Salon.com woman who describes her marriage as a prison. Their basic needs are met by their income, and they desire stimulation and excitement. [This is why, middle income women always support more immigration, legal or illegal. Because immigration increases the supply and lowers the cost of Rosa the Nanny and Manuel the carpenter, without facing competition as, say, a Concert Violinist or Environmental Lawyer, two of the occupations of Loh’s friends.]
The women also have another beef with their husbands: they don’t respect them because they earn as much or more than their husbands. This is a trend that has been developing for some time.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics website has a wealth of demographic data. Their 2007 report on Women’s Earnings has a wealth of data. Among the highlights are:
- The difference between women’s and men’s earnings was largest among those aged 55 to 64, with women earning about 73 percent as much as men in this age group. By
comparison, women earned 87 percent as much as men among workers 25 to 34 years old, and 92 percent as much among 16- to 24-year-olds. (See table 1.)
- Between 1979 and 2007, the earnings gap between women and men narrowed for most age groups. The women’s to men’s earnings ratio among 35- to 44-year-olds, for example, rose from 58 percent in 1979 to 77 percent in 2007, and the ratio for 45- to 54-year-olds increased from 57 percent to 75 percent. The earnings ratios for teenagers and for workers aged 65 and older fluctuated from 1979 to 2007, but their long-term trend has been essentially flat. (See table 12.)
From the report, we have the following graphs:
Clearly we can see that women’s earnings have been increasing. Correlation is not causation, but it is interesting that as women’s earnings have increased both in absolute and relative to men’s earnings, divorce and later marriage and single motherhood have all increased. Charles Murray believes that the single motherhood rate among White working and middle class women may be as high as 40% and 20% respectively.
Again, correlation is not causation, but marriage seems strongest in those populations (Asian and White) that have the biggest earnings gap between men and women, and weakest in those populations (Black and Hispanics) that have the smallest gap.
Men have done poorly in 1979 dollar amounts (and 1979 was a miserable year, economically) to 2007, in all educational areas except Bachelor’s Degree and Higher. But even there, they are far out-stripped by women, and women have done better than men, with small but measurable increases for Associate’s Degree and High School Grad, where in comparison men have losses, and substantial ones, from 1979 dollars. Even with less than High School diplomas, women posted smaller losses than men in 1979 dollar amounts, i.e. inflation adjusted.
Finally, we can see that women outnumber men in most workplace areas, except things like mining, trucking, and the like. In Professional occupations, women outnumber men by 9.4%. This is the largest gap on the graph.
It’s possible, that as women have closed the earnings gap with men, particularly among middle class, professional occupations (such as lawyers, doctors, the like), the ability of most men, who won’t be very exciting even on a good day, to first attract a woman into marriage, and then keep her happy, is low. Given that women can as Loh recounts her friend “Ellen” can pursue lots of bad boys, why not replace “nice guy” husbands like Ron with maids and nannies, and keep the bad boys around? Increasingly, this seems to be the choice women are making.
The Wall Street Journal in the “Real Pregnancy Crisis” suggests that the real issue is non-College White, Latino, and Black women having children out of wedlock. The CDC reports that 40% of children were born illegitimately, compared to 11% in 1970. Fully 60% of these children were born to women in their twenties, only 23% to teens. The article decries the nonsense feminist academics praising this development, ala Loh, Ehrenreich, and Friedan before her.
ABC News notes that America is not alone. Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark post rates of 66%, 55%, 54%, and 46% respectively of illegitimacy. Nations known for rough gender parity in earnings, feminist politics, and lack of respect for their men. [One of Loh’s friends notes in the Atlantic how “enlightened” Swedish women prefer dominant, aggressive Muslim men to their nice-guy Swedish men.] But then Sweden allows for gender-based abortion. Not the mark of a successful society, as China attests to. With 32 million more men than women under the age of twenty, gender imbalances due to sex-based abortions can be explosive. So too, lurching into illegitimacy as the social norm.
Thanks to reader Puma, for the link to Rutgers University study on the family.
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Over the last 40 years, marriage has declined radically, among women. While there are no class breakdowns, the largest slices of women are naturally going to be lower and middle class women, not upper class women.
We can see this decline in respect for marriage and husbands in the culture too. Nearly every ad, even those now featuring Black fathers, have doofus dads who are the butt of jokes.
Marriage, and the traditional nuclear family it seems, is something only for rich people. Yuppie women like Loh or Ehrenreich, can afford to replace husbands with exciting lovers and immigrant labor. For poorer women, out-of-wedlock children and rotating bad boys are the rule. Only where divorce means giving up real, serious money, in the millions of dollars, and giving up great luxury, do we see stable families and intact, nuclear family marriages. This great sea change, might incidentally explain the hatred of Sarah Palin, who famously married a blue collar guy of no great wealth, in her early twenties, and leveraged his support to run for office, first as Mayor of Wasilla, and then as Governor of Alaska.
After all, even the author of Moneyball, Michael Lewis, cannot get his wife’s respect of that of other women. Lewis, a best-selling author not once but twice, with “Liar’s Poker” is treated like a doofus.
In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” it was eerie how the literally empowered women treated men. Written by avowed feminist Joss Whedon, Buffy and her super-powered female friends pursued, non-stop, dangerous bad boys with superpowers, who were their superiors. Character, morality, and duty meant nothing, only the thrill of violent, dangerous, super-powered men. Perhaps the most illustrative moment came when Buffy’s second vampire boyfriend, “Spike” raped her, and she fell in love with him and (implied off-screen sex) with him again. [Star Sarah Michelle Gellar hated that particular storyline and feuded with series creator and show-runner Whedon over it.]
Now, women don’t have superpowers. But the better earnings, status, social conditions, and opportunities afforded women have not come without a cost, all across the West. If women are hard-wired to be hypergamous, i.e. desire men of greater power and status than themselves, this would make “kitchen bitches” irrelevant and explain our brave new world of single mothers, rotating bad boys, and disdain, shown over and over again, for fatherhood and men who embrace it. It would also explain the success of the institution of marriage in the only class that still sustains it: high powered men making millions every year and women who work only part-time in jobs that pay little but give prestige, i.e. the Non Governmental Organizations, the NGOs, like Greenpeace or Amnesty International or Heal the Bay.
The very rich men, those of the Upper Class have superpowers. They have more power and status than their wives.