A Dwindling Dating Pool

Commentators have noticed for some time now the seeming dearth of “marriageable” men, i.e. the ones with education, employment, and income comparable to women’s. Many factors have been blamed for this trend—lack of economic opportunity, higher rates of female education, a crunched labor market. Now, researchers from Cornell, Brigham Young, and South Utah Universities have joined together for a systematic study of this phenomenon in America. “Recent declines in U.S. marriage are reflected both in delayed marriage and increases in permanent singlehood, punctuated by intermittent spells of nonmarital cohabitation,” open the researchers. Whether due to differences in education, a decline in economic prospects, or racial disparities, “[y]oung women seemingly face shortages of demographically similar men to marry.” And yet, all studies indicate that marriage remains a top priority for most young people. There is a gap between intentions and reality, which the researchers seek to understand. “Our overall goal,” they summarize, “is largely descriptive: to appropriately characterize U.S. marriage market conditions for currently unmarried women with different sociodemographic profiles.” They do this with two specific objectives. First, the researchers “use data imputation methods to infer what the sociodemographic characteristics of each woman’s spouse would be if they married a man with similar characteristics to the husbands of comparable women.” In other words, they set up a group of “synethic spouses.” Second, they “compare the distribution of characteristics of synthetic husbands with the distribution of all unmarried men in our sample” to determine how many women were left without a suitable partner. Their discussion focuses on two groups specifically: Poorly educated or low-income women, and highly educated women, both of whom fare the worst on the marriage market. (The women in the middle of the spectrum seem to fare better.)
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