Do Women Need Marriage Anymore? (copy)

I’ve been seeing lots of articles like this lately.

Source:

(www.) citibank.com/womenandco/article/do-women-need-marriage-anymore.jsp

Do Women Need Marriage Anymore?

The New York Times article, “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside of Marriage,” really got us thinking about motherhood, money, and marriage. The story addresses the changing face of family in the U.S., and how illegitimacy no longer has the same stigma for young unmarried mothers—in fact, it is the new norm.

And while 59% of all women who give birth in the U.S. are married, it is the generation of young mothers under 30 who have tipped the scales the other way—with the biggest jump among white women in their 20’s. So, why are so many young women choosing NOT to walk down the aisle? Is it possible that men are phasing themselves out of their role in society and don’t even know it?

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

In the tradition of marriage, the notion that you marry for love is relatively new. In fact, it was not until the 1920’s that dating became a popular trend. Historically, marriage was a simple economic union between families. It was our human need to ensure our survival and better our position in society. And while most of us today shudder at the thought of living in a loveless marriage, the economic need for a woman to wed has typically outweighed that of men—that is, until now.

Gender Role Reversal
According to a Pew Research Center study, between 1970 and 2007 the education and income levels of married men and women have completely flip flopped. Until the last couple of decades, more men completed college and were the sole bread winners of the household. But today, the tables have turned.

The 2009 Labor Census showed that when the recession hit in 2008, 75% of the decline in unemployment was among men of prime working age, while the growth rate of women in the workforce actually increased. Plus, there are more women today graduating from college than men, and the dual income household is commonplace—with many women making more than their husbands. All of these changing factors have greatly increased the man’s economic need to marry while decreasing the financial motive for women.

Education and Marriage

That said, according to the studies, education—therefore income level—and marriage go hand in hand. The Times article and the Pew Research Center state that college graduates still “overwhelmingly marry before having children, turning family structure into a new class divide.” According to University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, “Marriage has become a luxury good.”

Adding to the divide is the finding that educated men have been quicker than their blue-collar peers to give women equal authority and play the partner role. Therefore, the trend suggests that many young, lower income women are finding themselves having children with men who not only cannot provide financially for their family, they are not providing other partnership benefits that would make a formal union beneficial, such as taking on the non-traditional role of stay at home dad.

The New Economics of Marriage

Today’s woman is no longer faced with the inevitability of relying on a man for income. So when faced with the prospect of a shotgun wedding, it’s not surprising a new generation of young mothers are asking: what’s in it for us? And even though statistics show that children born outside of marriage are at greater risk to fall into poverty, fail in school, or suffer emotional and behavioral problems, many women will try living with their “baby daddy”, but refuse to marry him.

For lower income parents, when it comes to qualifying for government aid, sometimes it’s simply more economical to stay single. But it’s not always the motivating factor. Many of these working mothers have no interest in struggling to financially support their out-of-work boyfriends. In fact, they’d rather keep their independence than risk a failed marriage in the long run.

The question remains, what do the men think of all of this? If the traditional role of the man in the family structure is changing, what will his new role be?

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