Gentle readers, I’m teeing up this recent Time magazine article for you not because I think it’s revelatory or infuriating. I’m sharing it with you for two reasons:
A) The data and analysis it presents is good news for women, and we can always use more of that in our lives.
B) I want to see if you’re as amazed as I am that Time ran this article as new news.
Conventional wisdom says that if you want to be richer, a useful thing to do is get married. Yet the economic benefit of marriage isn’t what it used to be. In a chapter of a book newly out from the Russell Sage Foundation, Changing Poverty, Changing Policies, two social scientists show that the marriage premium has subsided since 1969.
Considering how the rate of marriage has fallen and the rate of divorce has risen, the researchers expected the number of people living below the poverty line to grow 2.6%. But when they looked at the data, poverty had increased by less than half that amount.
OMG! Why? What could possibly have changed in our culture since 1969 that would explain this?
The answer’s going to totally blow your fucking mind. (Or not.)
In a nutshell, because single women, even those with kids, have an easier time supporting themselves outside marriage than they used to. More women are working, increasingly for wages that are competitive with those of men. Women are having children later in life, and fewer of them.
So there you have it. It turns out this “women in the workplace” thing where we can support ourselves and don’t have to stay home and have babies and be financially dependent has worked out pretty well! It seems we don’t have to get married or stay married to take care of ourselves or our kids! Pop the champagne, ladies! You don’t have to be Betty Draper after all!
And the study would indicate that given this “new” state of affairs, women might actually be better off financially NOT getting married.
What Cancian and Reed try to illustrate, though, is that replicating marriage wouldn’t necessarily generate more per-person wealth. “There are reasons some people don’t get married — they don’t have the same options,” says Cancian. Marrying someone who is chronically unemployed —or incarcerated — might very well not be an economic step up.
Well, yeah. Thanks for clearing that up, because I was having a hard time deciding who was better for me in the long run, the dude with a career or the dude in maximum security.
In my opinion, a major national magazine like Time shouldn’t have to reiterate the glaringly obvious fact that having two incomes might keep a family from slipping into poverty. Nor should they have to showcase a study that breaks the completely non-shocking news that single women can and do support themselves and their children. And it’s ridiculous that we might still have to disabuse people of the notion that women is always better off with a husband.
And yet, there are still plenty of people who think that women working is a bad thing for marriage, and for families. So maybe for them, this repetition of the obvious will be enlightening. But for most women, I suspect it’s just…obvious.