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Raising the bar

Women increasingly having children without a ‘marriageable male,’ economists find

May 18, 2017

A new study from researchers at the University of Maryland has found that women’s interest in the “marriageable male” — a man with reliable income capable of supporting a wife and child — is increasingly on the decline.

Historically, upswings in the financial prospects of blue-collar men have led to a decrease in the number of children born out of wedlock, explained economics professor and study co-author Melissa Kearney. In the 1970s and ‘80s, for example, a 10 percent increase in earnings of Appalachian miners during a coal boom was tied to a 9.6 percent reduction in the number of married women, and a 25 percent reduction in children born out of wedlock. This trend was largely driven, economists argued, by a simple principle — potential mothers were more likely to marry men who could contribute financially.

But when Kearney looked at recent population data from Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Pennsylvania — all areas that had seen blue collar wage spikes as a result of the recent fracking boom — she found that birth rates from married and unmarried parents had increased at the same clip. It appears that the “marriageable male” may no longer command the same high demand as he used to — a trend that experts attributed to changes in law and social values.

“Women couldn’t be very choosy in the past — they had to be married for both social and economic reasons,” explained Brookings Institution economist Isabel Sawhill. “They’d be stigmatized if they weren’t and they might not be able to make it on their own. Now the social context has shifted. They can raise the bar.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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