Why so Many Single? / For whom will the "husbandless majority" vote?/ the class gap - 1/22/07

Smartmarriages smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Mon Jan 22 11:20:56 EST 2007


The analysis continues, although it appears that for all the analysis, the
new NY Times figure "51% of women living without husbands" has now become
accepted as "fact". Sunday morning's McLaughlin Group opened a segment by
stating "according to the census 51% of women now live without husbands"
then went on to analyze what the "single women majority" would mean in the
'08 presidential elections.  I've received articles from just every part of
the country that continue to mull it over and correct the original piece.
(if anyone missed it: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/us/16census.html).
Here are two more (Boston and South Carolina) to give you a sense of the
ongoing discussion.  Then there's a new article in this Sunday's NY Times
"Why are there so many Singles?" which opens with their own NYT new "fact":
"The news that 51 percent of all women live without a spouse might be enough
to make you invest in cat futures...."
It's about the growing marriage gap - the growing marriage divide between
the classes as is so beautifully discussed in the Kay Hymowitz book,
Marriage and Caste in America. It uses her concepts yet doesn't even mention
the book. ??  However, lots of good content by David Popenoe.
- diane 

The Boston Globe 
Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
January 21, 2007

DID YOU KNOW that a majority of American women now live without husbands? I
didn't either, but last week The New York Times announced it on Page 1: "51%
of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse."

Taken at face value, that's a pretty disquieting statistic. If society is to
flourish and perpetuate itself, it must uphold marriage as a social ideal --
it must raise boys and girls in a culture that encourages them to marry
eventually a partner of the opposite sex, make stable and loving homes
together, and have children who will one day form successful marriages of
their own. The news that most American women now live without husbands
suggests that society's "ideal" is dwindling to a minority taste.

"At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with
unmarried partners more often and for longer periods," reporter Sam Roberts
notes. "At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a
divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting
in their newfound freedom."

That delight is voiced by nearly every woman quoted in the story. "The
benefits were completely unforeseen for me," says a 59-year-old divorcee,
"the free time, the amount of time I get to spend with friends, the time I
have alone, which I value tremendously, the flexibility in terms of work,
travel, and cultural events." Such are the joys of non marriage, another
woman exults, that "every day is like a present."

Roberts quotes William Frey of the Brookings Institution, who describes this
apparently happy husbandless majority as "a clear tipping point, reflecting
the culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence and
more flexible lifestyles for women."

Or maybe not. For when you try to pin down the numbers, Roberts's startling
finding turns out to depend on some awfully strained definitions.

"Women," for example, isn't the word most of us would use to describe high
school sophomores. Yet the Times includes girls as young as 15 in its
analysis. Not surprisingly, girls who in many cases aren't old enough to get
a drivers' license are unlikely to have husbands. According to the Census
Bureau's 2005 American Community survey, 97 percent of females between 15
and 19 have never been married. Incorporating nearly 10 million teenagers in
the ranks of marriage-aged American "women" may be a good way to pad the
number of those without husbands, but it doesn't make that number more

Actually, Census data show that even with the 15- to 19-year-olds, a
majority of American females -- 51 percent -- are "now married." So how does
the Times reach a contrary conclusion? By excluding from the category of
women with husbands the "relatively small number of cases" -- in fact, it's
more than 2 million -- in which "husbands are working out of town, are in
the military, or are institutionalized." That startling Page 1 headline is
true, in other words, only if the wives of US troops at war are deemed not
to have husbands.

Marriage in America is undoubtedly less robust than it was 50 years ago. But
it is not yet a candidate for the endangered-species list. The Census Bureau
reports that by the time they are 30 to 34, a large majority of American men
and women -- 72 percent -- have been married. Among men and women ages 65
and up, 96 percent have been married. Yes, the divorce rate is high -- 17.7
per 1,000 marriages -- and many couples cohabitate without getting married.
But marriage remains a key institution in American life.

Marriage advocates often grumble that everything is getting worse, writes
scholar David Blankenhorn in his forthcoming book, "The Future of Marriage,"
but it's time to acknowledge that some things are getting better: Divorce
rates are declining modestly.

Teen pregnancy rates are dramatically lower.

Rates of reported marital happiness, after a long slide, appear to be
rising. And a substantial majority of American children, 67 percent, are
being raised by married parents.

By even wider margins, young Americans look forward to being married: 70
percent of 12th-grade boys and 82 percent of 12th-grade girls describe
having a good marriage and family life as "extremely important" to them.
Even higher percentages say that they expect to marry.

The '60s, the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, the rise of single
motherhood -- there is no question that marriage has been through a wringer.
Yet our most important social insitution remains a social ideal. Boys and
girls still aspire to become husbands and wives.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Spartanburg Herald Journal, SC
LANE FILLER, Staff Writer
January 21, 2007

If you've been reading the papers this week, you might have noticed a big
news flash about the fact that, for the first time, more adult women (51
percent) are living without a husband than with one.

The story, first reported in The New York Times, essentially didn't mention

You almost have to admire the accomplishment of writing a lengthy story
about the declining percentage of women living with spouses that includes:

€ Statistics about women, but not men

€ Interviews with four women who explain why they don't want to get hitched
and zero interviews with men who might say, "Who asked you to?"

€ No mention of the fact that the census statistics define "women" as all
females 15 and older, meaning a significant percentage of the unmarried
women in the study cannot, in many states, legally get married

To read the story by reporter Sam Roberts, you'd think men all over the
country are chasing women on bended knee (which would explain their lack of
success catching them), rings in hand, and the gals are fleeing them,
singing along to "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar" on their iPods and writing "I
hate stinky boys" in their diaries each night.

Anyone who's not an idiot is going to see this and think, "Obviously the
male married rate has to be declining at approximately the same pace as the
female married rate, so why would the reporter turn the story into a
feminist, leftist manifesto?"

Via e-mail, Roberts told me he only mentioned women and not men because,
"What was striking about the women was not the decline, which has been
fairly steady, but the fact that it passed a statistical benchmark."

Thanks entirely to the fact that so many women are widowed, the percentage
of men not living with wives hasn't quite surpassed that 50 percent
"benchmark" yet.

I also questioned why he had not asked any men whether their changing
attitudes about marriage were leading to the decline, but Roberts didn't

So I called one of Roberts' key sources for the story, Brookings Institute
demographer William H. Frey. In Roberts' story, Frey called the new
statistic "a clear tipping point, reflecting the culmination of post-1960
trends associated with greater independence and more flexible lifestyles for

"Everyone's saying, 'women no longer have to marry for money, security and
to have kids, and that explains these statistics,' " I pointed out to Frey.
"But couldn't it just as easily be that men no longer have to marry to get
sex, hot food and clean clothing?"

"That is another angle and you're correct," Frey answered, adding that while
the marriage dip is generally seen as a female choice, it is obviously

Curious, I stopped by Barnes & Noble to peruse those uncanny barometers of
social change -- self-help books.

Women were offered dozens of books specifically tailored to getting a man to
marry them, including "The Commitment Cure," "The Rules," "What Men Want,"
"Find a Husband After 35," "How to Get Married After 35" and "How to Make a
Man Fall in Love With You."

There was a book dedicated to helping men with their romantic relationships,
too: "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists."

The New York Times 
January 21, 2007

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