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Study Finds "Shortage of Economically Attractive Partners" Is Cause of America's Marriage Decline

It's now scientifically proven that there are "large deficits in the supply of potential male spouses."

We've all heard that young people today don't value marriage as much as previous generations and are delaying walking down the aisle more and more. There have been many conjectures as to why this is the case, but now, a new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family says that the marriage decline in America is due to the "shortage of economically attractive partners for unmarried women to marry."

For the study, Cornell University researchers examined recent data to determine the sociodemographic characteristics of ideal male spouses for unmarried women. They then compared those ideals to the sociodemographic standings of single men in the real world. And they found that these dream husbands had a 58 percent higher salary, were 30 percent more likely to be employed, and were 19 percent more likely to have college degrees than the unmarried men who are actually available.

The researchers therefore grimly concluded that there are "large deficits in the supply of potential male spouses" and that "the unmarried may remain unmarried or marry less well‐suited partners." This situation of expectations versus reality was found to be especially prominent among racial and ethnic minorities, as well as those who had a low or high socioeconomic status. So, basically, according to science, most single people today have two choices: be forever single or settle for less.

"Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult," Daniel T. Lichter, a professor of policy analysis and management and sociology at Cornell University and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women's educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors."

In fact, in 2018, an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there are 500,000 men between the ages of 25 and 34 missing from the workforce.

But, given that the rise of women in the workforce has largely eliminated the need for a woman to marry someone for financial security, marriage may no longer be, as Lichter says, "an economic transaction." As biological anthropologist Helen Fisher recently told Best Life, one of the main reasons there are so many singletons out there today is because "women no longer need a partner to support them, so they are getting pickier."

Plus, the results of another 2018 study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science suggest that modern women are less likely to choose a long-term partner on the basis of wealth and care more about personality traits, such as being honest, emotionally intelligent, and caring. Can't we all agree that's a good thing?

And to learn more about the current "marriage market," check out New Study Highlights Why So Many Americans Are Still Single.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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