Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This just in: Women are earning more now than in 1970, marriage is not easy

The most popular article on NYTimes.com today reveals the shocking news that women's increasing income has led to shifting patterns of dating and marriage. The article seems pretty even-handed (if heteronormative), but is surprising to me for two reasons. 1) That this is news at all. The article analyzes income data from 1970 to 2007, and we've known about these changes for quite a while now (decades). 2) For a man bites dog story, this has resonated hugely with readers. It was posted yesterday and is already the number one story.

The Pew Center (who wrote the report) gives the topic an interesting spin: women's gains in income are relatively better for men when the marriage market is taken into consideration. I think this kind of messaging can convince skeptics that feminism is good for everyone (including men). However, I think the NYTimes' focus on how the new dynamics tilt the marriage market against high-achieving women is not so great. This was definitely not the main message of the report, and seems like imposing a narrative that might not be quite right or appropriate.


  1. My favorite part of the NYTimes article:

    "Elaine Richardson, who is in her 50s, is divorced and owns a health care consulting firm in Westchester, said that men 'call you high maintenance if you look like you don’t need anyone to take care of you.'"

    Personally, I feel my degree seems to be a huge turn-off when talking to men at bars... Not like I introduce myself that way. It is just that when you mention you've been in grad school for five years... people put two and two together.

  2. Here's Jezebel's take: http://jezebel.com/5451680/are-women-really-earning-more-than-men

    You might be interested in the research by Lena Edlund that postulates that men transfer wealth to women in marriage in exchange for paternity rights (It's complicated, let her explain it: http://cesifo.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/ifl016?ijkey=Ru9zsB4DzuGyOMH&keytype=ref)

    I wonder if, with men's and women's salaries becoming more equal (and men's paternity claims outside of marriage getting more legitimate) if this bargain has ceased to be mutually beneficial, and more and more people are pursuing their own careers, and then marrying out of--dare I say it--love? This would lead to the kind of shift illustrated by the study, away from hypergamy (women marrying up) towards matching based on mutual like, which is more likely to have a balanced distribution of income, with some women higher and some men higher.


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